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August 31, 2005

Danny’s Shoes

It was the 4th anniversary of my brother Danny's death this past Monday. In honor of it, I’m posting an excerpt from “The Jim and Dan Stories,” the book I was compelled to write after losing my brother Jim, and then Dan, a month later.

Written in a conversational style, the book is structured by short seemingly disjointed stories that eventually tell a whole story, which is reflective of the way the mind re-members during the grief process. It's part a recounting of the last few weeks of my brother’s lives; part a humorous re-telling of growing up in an Irish Catholic family of 9 siblings during the 50s and 60s; and part a chronicle of the day to day living and writing my way through heartbreaking grief.

I thought I would post a favorite photo of Dan, but I can’t seem to bring myself to inject such a visual reminder into the present right now. There are photos of Jim and Dan and the rest of my large family (some of whom are mentioned below) on my website, Silver and Gold, a site dedicated to my brothers. My sister, Kathy, has also posted about losing Dan on "A Particularly Persistent Point of View."

The excerpt, “Shoes in the Closet,” is one of J&J’s Mom’s favorite, who said she laughed and cried while reading the book…sometimes at the same time!

Shoes in the Closet
My brother John had a dream shortly after Dan died. He had arrived at Dan’s apartment with the U-haul (which he actually did do weeks later) to close it down, and Dan was there. John was astounded! “Dan, you’re dead! How can this be,” he asked?

“I know I’m dead, but I’m all right,” Dan answered, and then he said, “And now it’s like Christmas.” The dream continued with Dan giving away his belongings to John and other family members.

We all wanted John, the only sibling besides me now who was not living in Massachusetts, to have Dan’s computer. “We want you online. We want to keep track of you,” I told him. John, the black sheep, hard drinking fisherman rouge, who had also contracted Hepatitis C from drug use in the 70’s and was now determined to stay sober in every way, sometimes needed to be kept track of.

When Kathy, Jeanne, (who came after my mother left), and I were staying in Dan’s apartment, we got a phone call from John. John had lived with Danny for several years in Quincy, Massachusetts, and then in Texas, and was particularly broken up. He cried when he asked us if he could do Dan’s eulogy. We all knew it was his calling, especially since our youngest sister, Tricia, had a dream that John was singing “Let it be” in the church during Dan’s funeral. He didn’t sing, but we did play “Let it be” the morning of the burial, and John did give a moving eulogy for Dan. We all choked up when he ended it with, “…Today we put my big brother Dano to rest beside his big brother Jim. I guess that makes me the big brother now.”

I called Dan’s apartment when John, Joey, and Nancy, who were going to drive Dan’s Toyota Tundra truck back to Massachusetts, were there to close it down. “I have a strange request. Bring me a pair of Dan’s shoes. I want to keep them in my closet,” I said. The request was related to one of my most vivid childhood memories, and one that has been re-stimulated with Dan’s passing.

When Danny was almost four years old, he went to Florida with our grandparents for the summer, but they ending up keeping him for a whole year. A year might as well be a lifetime in the mind of a child, in the minds of children. I was five and was rummaging through the room that Dan and Jim shared when I found a pair of Danny’s shoes in the closet. They were a 1950’s style, brown with white in the center. Finding them was an abrupt reminder of the brother I used to have, the one I had forgotten about, the one I wanted back! I carried those shoes around with me all day while I cried inconsolably. I wanted my parents to witness my anguish, so they would get my brother back home for me.

I asked for a pair of Dan’s shoes because I don’t want to forget my brother, the child he was, the man he was. I wish he could come back, like he did from Florida.

Danny’s Shoes

It was the 4th anniversary of my brother Danny's death this past Monday. In honor of it, I’m posting an excerpt from “The Jim and Dan Stories,” the book I was compelled to write after losing my brother Jim, and then Dan, a month later.

Written in a conversational style, the book is structured by short seemingly disjointed stories that eventually tell a whole story, which is reflective of the way the mind re-members during the grief process. It's part a recounting of the last few weeks of my brother’s lives; part a humorous re-telling of growing up in an Irish Catholic family of 9 siblings during the 50s and 60s; and part a chronicle of the day to day living and writing my way through heartbreaking grief.

I thought I would post a favorite photo of Dan, but I can’t seem to bring myself to inject such a visual reminder into the present right now. There are photos of Jim and Dan and the rest of my large family (some of whom are mentioned below) on my website, Silver and Gold, a site dedicated to my brothers. My sister, Kathy, has also posted about losing Dan on "A Particularly Persistent Point of View."

The excerpt, “Shoes in the Closet,” is one of J&J’s Mom’s favorite, who said she laughed and cried while reading the book…sometimes at the same time!

Shoes in the Closet
My brother John had a dream shortly after Dan died. He had arrived at Dan’s apartment with the U-haul (which he actually did do weeks later) to close it down, and Dan was there. John was astounded! “Dan, you’re dead! How can this be,” he asked?

“I know I’m dead, but I’m all right,” Dan answered, and then he said, “And now it’s like Christmas.” The dream continued with Dan giving away his belongings to John and other family members.

We all wanted John, the only sibling besides me now who was not living in Massachusetts, to have Dan’s computer. “We want you online. We want to keep track of you,” I told him. John, the black sheep, hard drinking fisherman rouge, who had also contracted Hepatitis C from drug use in the 70’s and was now determined to stay sober in every way, sometimes needed to be kept track of.

When Kathy, Jeanne, (who came after my mother left), and I were staying in Dan’s apartment, we got a phone call from John. John had lived with Danny for several years in Quincy, Massachusetts, and then in Texas, and was particularly broken up. He cried when he asked us if he could do Dan’s eulogy. We all knew it was his calling, especially since our youngest sister, Tricia, had a dream that John was singing “Let it be” in the church during Dan’s funeral. He didn’t sing, but we did play “Let it be” the morning of the burial, and John did give a moving eulogy for Dan. We all choked up when he ended it with, “…Today we put my big brother Dano to rest beside his big brother Jim. I guess that makes me the big brother now.”

I called Dan’s apartment when John, Joey, and Nancy, who were going to drive Dan’s Toyota Tundra truck back to Massachusetts, were there to close it down. “I have a strange request. Bring me a pair of Dan’s shoes. I want to keep them in my closet,” I said. The request was related to one of my most vivid childhood memories, and one that has been re-stimulated with Dan’s passing.

When Danny was almost four years old, he went to Florida with our grandparents for the summer, but they ending up keeping him for a whole year. A year might as well be a lifetime in the mind of a child, in the minds of children. I was five and was rummaging through the room that Dan and Jim shared when I found a pair of Danny’s shoes in the closet. They were a 1950’s style, brown with white in the center. Finding them was an abrupt reminder of the brother I used to have, the one I had forgotten about, the one I wanted back! I carried those shoes around with me all day while I cried inconsolably. I wanted my parents to witness my anguish, so they would get my brother back home for me.

I asked for a pair of Dan’s shoes because I don’t want to forget my brother, the child he was, the man he was. I wish he could come back, like he did from Florida.

August 30, 2005

Cohorts in Cahoots

cohorts2.pngThis is what cohorts do when one is having a birthday and she and her friends are celebrating at Floyd’s Oddfellas Cantina. One friend in the group introduced herself to another friend’s new boyfriend as “a cohort,” which then triggered the game we, women of a certain mature status, frequently find ourselves playing. It’s called “Let’s all try to think of the word that no one can remember.” It’s hard to think of anything else until one of us remembers the forgotten word. The game can go on for hours, and in this case it went on for days.

After hearing the word “cohort,” the birthday girl told us about another similar word that her college professor had called her and her friends, but she couldn’t remember it. “Companions?” someone guessed. No. “Comrades?” No. “Colleagues?”

She shook her head and said, “It’s a stranger word than those, one that I wasn’t familiar with.”

The next day, feeling sure I had it, I called and left a message on her answering machine, “It must be compadre,” I said into the phone.

But later in the day, while shopping at the Harvest Moon, where she works, she informed me that compadre was not the right word. We grabbed one of the owners walking by. “Tom’s Irish. He loves words. Maybe he’ll know it,” we both said.

“Communist?” he guessed. NO! “Constituent?” I countered. NO!

Later, in one last attempt and after a Thesaurus search, I typed and sent an email, “Could it be concomitants: existing or occurring together or in connection with another; accompaniment?"

“You know, concomitant may be very close or could be it. Would she have said concomitancy in reference to people, though?” she wondered.

I guess we’ll be calling ourselves cohorts, unless we hear otherwise. Maybe someone out has a good guess for the mystery word.

Cohorts in Cahoots

cohorts2.pngThis is what cohorts do when one is having a birthday and she and her friends are celebrating at Floyd’s Oddfellas Cantina. One friend in the group introduced herself to another friend’s new boyfriend as “a cohort,” which then triggered the game we, women of a certain mature status, frequently find ourselves playing. It’s called “Let’s all try to think of the word that no one can remember.” It’s hard to think of anything else until one of us remembers the forgotten word. The game can go on for hours, and in this case it went on for days.

After hearing the word “cohort,” the birthday girl told us about another similar word that her college professor had called her and her friends, but she couldn’t remember it. “Companions?” someone guessed. No. “Comrades?” No. “Colleagues?”

She shook her head and said, “It’s a stranger word than those, one that I wasn’t familiar with.”

The next day, feeling sure I had it, I called and left a message on her answering machine, “It must be compadre,” I said into the phone.

But later in the day, while shopping at the Harvest Moon, where she works, she informed me that compadre was not the right word. We grabbed one of the owners walking by. “Tom’s Irish. He loves words. Maybe he’ll know it,” we both said.

“Communist?” he guessed. NO! “Constituent?” I countered. NO!

Later, in one last attempt and after a Thesaurus search, I typed and sent an email, “Could it be concomitants: existing or occurring together or in connection with another; accompaniment?"

“You know, concomitant may be very close or could be it. Would she have said concomitancy in reference to people, though?” she wondered.

I guess we’ll be calling ourselves cohorts, unless we hear otherwise. Maybe someone out has a good guess for the mystery word.

August 29, 2005

Little White Lies

I was born in Quincy in 1950...My Dad was in the Navy...and my Mother was pretty...Are you doing the math in your head yet?...Here, want a pencil?!

I don’t tell anyone my real age unless it’s going to save me some money, which happened recently.

Floyd’s Jacksonville Center for the Arts has a new retail store that features the creative efforts of local artists. A few days ago, I stopped by the Center to drop off some of my books (“The Jim and Dan Stories” and “Muses Like Moonlight”) for sale in the shop, and I discovered that you had to be member to sell items there. I was more than happy to become a member, seeing as how the Center is such an asset to our community, and I fully support its goals, particularly the newly opened folk art school.

Jeri, a friend who works there, said to me, “It costs $25 to join. Too bad you’re not 55 because then it would only cost $15.”

“Hmmmm….It just so happens that… I recently turned 55,” I lowered my voice and confessed to her. She was shocked because she, like most of my friends, doesn’t know how old I am, due to the fact that I generally lie about it…usually by only a year.

But I hadn’t confessed quietly enough. Wayne, the director and another friend (Floyd is a small town), overheard us and said, “What? Colleen! You don’t look 55.”

“That’s because I hang around with that young guy. You know, my husband, Joe. Joe is 10 years younger than me,” I told Wayne.

“Is that all?” he asked.

“NO! I lie about that too! He’s really 11 years younger than me!” I said laughing and stomping a foot.

So that’s my formula. I shave one year off my age and add one year to Joe’s. It’s information I don’t share freely, but if anyone really wants to know (or if it will save me some money), I will admit the truth.

I wrote out a check for $15, and a few days later I received a membership card in the mail. I gasped when I opened the envelope and saw the word “senior” written on the card. Being referred to as a “senior” was a first (and much worse than the first time I didn’t get carded in a bar or the first time someone called me ma’am)!

Post Note:
Summer of Blog 2005!
Mooalex is hosting the Summer of Blog 2005, which is a gallery of blogger’s summer photos. Loose Leaf has a photo featured, “Taking the Cure,” taken by my sister Sherry’s husband, Nelson Pidgeon, of her and I in Rockport, Massachusetts.

Little White Lies

I was born in Quincy in 1950...My Dad was in the Navy...and my Mother was pretty...Are you doing the math in your head yet?...Here, want a pencil?!

I don’t tell anyone my real age unless it’s going to save me some money, which happened recently.

Floyd’s Jacksonville Center for the Arts has a new retail store that features the creative efforts of local artists. A few days ago, I stopped by the Center to drop off some of my books (“The Jim and Dan Stories” and “Muses Like Moonlight”) for sale in the shop, and I discovered that you had to be member to sell items there. I was more than happy to become a member, seeing as how the Center is such an asset to our community, and I fully support its goals, particularly the newly opened folk art school.

Jeri, a friend who works there, said to me, “It costs $25 to join. Too bad you’re not 55 because then it would only cost $15.”

“Hmmmm….It just so happens that… I recently turned 55,” I lowered my voice and confessed to her. She was shocked because she, like most of my friends, doesn’t know how old I am, due to the fact that I generally lie about it…usually by only a year.

But I hadn’t confessed quietly enough. Wayne, the director and another friend (Floyd is a small town), overheard us and said, “What? Colleen! You don’t look 55.”

“That’s because I hang around with that young guy. You know, my husband, Joe. Joe is 10 years younger than me,” I told Wayne.

“Is that all?” he asked.

“NO! I lie about that too! He’s really 11 years younger than me!” I said laughing and stomping a foot.

So that’s my formula. I shave one year off my age and add one year to Joe’s. It’s information I don’t share freely, but if anyone really wants to know (or if it will save me some money), I will admit the truth.

I wrote out a check for $15, and a few days later I received a membership card in the mail. I gasped when I opened the envelope and saw the word “senior” written on the card. Being referred to as a “senior” was a first (and much worse than the first time I didn’t get carded in a bar or the first time someone called me ma’am)!

Post Note:
Summer of Blog 2005!
Mooalex is hosting the Summer of Blog 2005, which is a gallery of blogger’s summer photos. Loose Leaf has a photo featured, “Taking the Cure,” taken by my sister Sherry’s husband, Nelson Pidgeon, of her and I in Rockport, Massachusetts.

August 28, 2005

Open for Business

open for business 1.png AKA Raising the Roof: The Palomino pop-up camper rides again. My husband, Joe, and I went camping this weekend along a nearby lake. The water was warm, the camp chili was good, and the blogging was no-tech, as opposed to low-tech, which means I was writing in notebooks. I’ll be back to my regular posting schedule on Monday. See you then!

Philpott Lake

A fallen sky has come to life
broken off in one piece
and I’m like a cloud
floating in its bloodstream
under the on-looking pines

Open for Business

open for business 1.png AKA Raising the Roof: The Palomino pop-up camper rides again. My husband, Joe, and I went camping this weekend along a nearby lake. The water was warm, the camp chili was good, and the blogging was no-tech, as opposed to low-tech, which means I was writing in notebooks. I’ll be back to my regular posting schedule on Monday. See you then!

Philpott Lake

A fallen sky has come to life
broken off in one piece
and I’m like a cloud
floating in its bloodstream
under the on-looking pines

August 27, 2005

Corn Maiden Raids Garden

cornmaiden3.png Our garden was recently raided by a bare-footed hungry Corn Maiden, my youngest son’s girlfriend’s daughter. She plans to come back in September or October when the pumpkins are ripe, at which point we’ll call her “The Goddess of Harvest.”

And in other news, for those who haven’t heard:
1. Please don’t use the word “online” in a comment. Apparently, my blog doesn’t like it. After three different readers were unable to comment here at “Loose Leaf” and were cited for “questionable content,” and after determining that the said citations were “questionable,” I did some detective work. I discovered the common denominator to be the word “online,” although, I seem to be able to say it all I want to out here on the front page. Please feel free to say “on the internet,” or as Lu from Lu’s News (a reader who didn’t take too kindly to being bumped) suggested: o.n.l.i.n.e.

2. Yesterday I came across a tip from Yellojkt, suggesting that his readers check out “The Tail that Wags the Blog," a recent Washington Post column by journalist and blogger Joel Achenbach. Yellojkt described it as the funniest thing he had ever read about blogs. I agree, and so I’m passing the tip along.

3. And this just in from Laura at Milk and Honey: The Human Clock! It’s a site that posts people’s intriguing photographs displaying the current time, with the photo changing every minute of the day. It’s worth a visit. Enjoy!

Corn Maiden Raids Garden

cornmaiden3.png Our garden was recently raided by a bare-footed hungry Corn Maiden, my youngest son’s girlfriend’s daughter. She plans to come back in September or October when the pumpkins are ripe, at which point we’ll call her “The Goddess of Harvest.”

And in other news, for those who haven’t heard:
1. Please don’t use the word “online” in a comment. Apparently, my blog doesn’t like it. After three different readers were unable to comment here at “Loose Leaf” and were cited for “questionable content,” and after determining that the said citations were “questionable,” I did some detective work. I discovered the common denominator to be the word “online,” although, I seem to be able to say it all I want to out here on the front page. Please feel free to say “on the internet,” or as Lu from Lu’s News (a reader who didn’t take too kindly to being bumped) suggested: o.n.l.i.n.e.

2. Yesterday I came across a tip from Yellojkt, suggesting that his readers check out “The Tail that Wags the Blog," a recent Washington Post column by journalist and blogger Joel Achenbach. Yellojkt described it as the funniest thing he had ever read about blogs. I agree, and so I’m passing the tip along.

3. And this just in from Laura at Milk and Honey: The Human Clock! It’s a site that posts people’s intriguing photographs displaying the current time, with the photo changing every minute of the day. It’s worth a visit. Enjoy!

August 26, 2005

Watch Your P's and Q's

marascrabble.pngMara contemplating her strategy.

If you were playing The Millionaire on TV and were stuck for an answer, the rules of the game allow you 3 options that give you a better chance at choosing the correct answer. You could eliminate half of the answers, leaving only 3 to guess from; you could ask the audience; or call a friend to consult with.

When Mara and I play Scrabble, we have similar rules. We give ourselves 3 free dictionary look-ups and one chance to consult with Sally, the owner of Café de Sol, where we frequently play, who also likes to play Scrabble. As a last resort, we have considered one question posed to a random stranger, but things have never gotten that bad.

Yesterday, Mara played a fake Q word. It was very impressive and she asked Sally before risking it. Sally gave her the same answer she gave me earlier when I had asked her. “Is this a word?” “It could be,” Sally replied.

I wasn’t about to challenge Mara’s word, seeing that I had a word to play off it, which would not only re-use her 10 point Q but would land on a triple word score.

What you can’t see in the picture is that behind Mara is a wireless computer station, and, when it wasn’t our turn, both Mara and I went to the computer and got online while waiting for the other to play. “See, we might as well be playing online,” Mara, who has been trying to convince me to play online Scrabble with her for a long time, said.

I was busy shuffling letter tiles and muttering to myself, enamored with the word “ELVIS” that was spelled out in front of me. But it was a proper noun and I knew that was against the rules. Eventually, I used the word “EVILS” …and hit the triple word score again!

“Don’t you just love what you can do with letters?” I said to Mara.

Can you guess who won this game?

Watch Your P's and Q's

marascrabble.pngMara contemplating her strategy.

If you were playing The Millionaire on TV and were stuck for an answer, the rules of the game allow you 3 options that give you a better chance at choosing the correct answer. You could eliminate half of the answers, leaving only 3 to guess from; you could ask the audience; or call a friend to consult with.

When Mara and I play Scrabble, we have similar rules. We give ourselves 3 free dictionary look-ups and one chance to consult with Sally, the owner of Café de Sol, where we frequently play, who also likes to play Scrabble. As a last resort, we have considered one question posed to a random stranger, but things have never gotten that bad.

Yesterday, Mara played a fake Q word. It was very impressive and she asked Sally before risking it. Sally gave her the same answer she gave me earlier when I had asked her. “Is this a word?” “It could be,” Sally replied.

I wasn’t about to challenge Mara’s word, seeing that I had a word to play off it, which would not only re-use her 10 point Q but would land on a triple word score.

What you can’t see in the picture is that behind Mara is a wireless computer station, and, when it wasn’t our turn, both Mara and I went to the computer and got online while waiting for the other to play. “See, we might as well be playing online,” Mara, who has been trying to convince me to play online Scrabble with her for a long time, said.

I was busy shuffling letter tiles and muttering to myself, enamored with the word “ELVIS” that was spelled out in front of me. But it was a proper noun and I knew that was against the rules. Eventually, I used the word “EVILS” …and hit the triple word score again!

“Don’t you just love what you can do with letters?” I said to Mara.

Can you guess who won this game?

Elvis is in the Building

elvis.png
Playing Scrabble at the Cafe de Sol

Elvis is in the Building

elvis.png
Playing Scrabble at the Cafe de Sol

August 25, 2005

Paragon Park

pargonpark.png I dream of Hull the way I imagine my Grandmother dreamt of her homeland in Youhal, Ireland. I have a re-occurring dream of walking the length of Hull, the way we used to as kids when we would spend all our money, including our bus fare, at Paragon Park and had no way home but to walk. I think I’m the only kid in my family, or all of Hull for that matter, who grew up when Paragon was still there and never rode on the roller coaster. I always played it safe. Not like my reckless brothers. ~ “Dreaming of Beachfront Property,” excerpted from “The Jim and Dan Stories” by Colleen

Many traditional amusement parks across the country, like the one my siblings and I grew up with in Hull, Massachusetts, have gone the way of drive-inn movies, few and far between. Condos now loom where our beloved Paragon Park once stood, and there’s a shopping mall where the drive-inn theatre used to be.

We knew from an early age what cotton candy tasted like and how tall you had to be to ride on the Bumper Cars. The girls in the family all owned stuffed animals that their boyfriends won for them at the arcade games, and most of us worked at Paragon selling tickets for rides or running the games during school summer vacations… "25 cents to play, 25 cents to win" or "Don't be shy, come on over and give it a try," my sister, Tricia, remembers calling into a microphone at one of the game booths she worked at.

I personally remember riding the Bumper Cars, the Scrambler, the Wild Mouse, the Round-up, the Tilt-a whirl, the Teacups, the Congo Cruise (which was called “the Red Mill” when I first rode it at the age of 5), the Caterpillar, and the Ferris Wheel. I got stuck in the Kooky Castle once when the ride stopped short in its track, and the Rotor made me sick.

But I especially remember and am nostalgic for the “Giant Coaster” (see photo), once claimed to be the biggest in the world. Even though I never rode on it (for the same reason I don’t bungee jump) the roller coaster was a hometown landmark that I thought would always be there. I knew I was home when, coming back into Hull from the Washington Boulevard, I would see the roller coaster and smell the sea air at the same time.

Paragon Park was torn down sometime in the mid 1980s. The only thing remaining is the Paragon Carrousel that Hull residents had to fight to save, and the fundraising efforts to keep the carrousel in Hull continue to this day. Whenever I go home I like to ride on the carrousel, which we called “the merry-go-round” when we were kids (also seen in the photo with the rounded roof).

I got a comment on “Loose Leaf” from Jeanne at “Out and Back,” recently. “Colleen, I think I found your roller coaster in Maryland,” the comment read. I had heard before that the Paragon Park roller coaster ended up in Maryland and with a little internet research I discovered that, indeed, it is alive and well in its second incarnation at Six Flags America in Largo, Maryland.

It’s called the “Wild One” now, which means, I assume, that it's no where near ready for retirement.

Post Note:
Special thanks the LoveLink, the email group of mostly family members and a few Redman family fans that I belong to, for helping me remember the names of Paragon Park rides.

Paragon Park

pargonpark.png I dream of Hull the way I imagine my Grandmother dreamt of her homeland in Youhal, Ireland. I have a re-occurring dream of walking the length of Hull, the way we used to as kids when we would spend all our money, including our bus fare, at Paragon Park and had no way home but to walk. I think I’m the only kid in my family, or all of Hull for that matter, who grew up when Paragon was still there and never rode on the roller coaster. I always played it safe. Not like my reckless brothers. ~ “Dreaming of Beachfront Property,” excerpted from “The Jim and Dan Stories” by Colleen

Many traditional amusement parks across the country, like the one my siblings and I grew up with in Hull, Massachusetts, have gone the way of drive-inn movies, few and far between. Condos now loom where our beloved Paragon Park once stood, and there’s a shopping mall where the drive-inn theatre used to be.

We knew from an early age what cotton candy tasted like and how tall you had to be to ride on the Bumper Cars. The girls in the family all owned stuffed animals that their boyfriends won for them at the arcade games, and most of us worked at Paragon selling tickets for rides or running the games during school summer vacations… "25 cents to play, 25 cents to win" or "Don't be shy, come on over and give it a try," my sister, Tricia, remembers calling into a microphone at one of the game booths she worked at.

I personally remember riding the Bumper Cars, the Scrambler, the Wild Mouse, the Round-up, the Tilt-a whirl, the Teacups, the Congo Cruise (which was called “the Red Mill” when I first rode it at the age of 5), the Caterpillar, and the Ferris Wheel. I got stuck in the Kooky Castle once when the ride stopped short in its track, and the Rotor made me sick.

But I especially remember and am nostalgic for the “Giant Coaster” (see photo), once claimed to be the biggest in the world. Even though I never rode on it (for the same reason I don’t bungee jump) the roller coaster was a hometown landmark that I thought would always be there. I knew I was home when, coming back into Hull from the Washington Boulevard, I would see the roller coaster and smell the sea air at the same time.

Paragon Park was torn down sometime in the mid 1980s. The only thing remaining is the Paragon Carrousel that Hull residents had to fight to save, and the fundraising efforts to keep the carrousel in Hull continue to this day. Whenever I go home I like to ride on the carrousel, which we called “the merry-go-round” when we were kids (also seen in the photo with the rounded roof).

I got a comment on “Loose Leaf” from Jeanne at “Out and Back,” recently. “Colleen, I think I found your roller coaster in Maryland,” the comment read. I had heard before that the Paragon Park roller coaster ended up in Maryland and with a little internet research I discovered that, indeed, it is alive and well in its second incarnation at Six Flags America in Largo, Maryland.

It’s called the “Wild One” now, which means, I assume, that it's no where near ready for retirement.

Post Note:
Special thanks the LoveLink, the email group of mostly family members and a few Redman family fans that I belong to, for helping me remember the names of Paragon Park rides.

August 24, 2005

Yesterday's exciting highlights:

A bird that sounded like a ringing cell phone flew into the house and couldn’t get back out. I was in the upstairs office when I heard it, and I nervously crept down the stairs to see what it was because I don’t own a cell phone.

My husband’s nephew, who was having trouble with his home-life, came to live with us for a couple of months this summer. Because he was recently a senior in high school, we began to get tons of college promotional mail in his name. Even though he is not planning to go to college any time soon and has moved out, we still get stacks of the stuff every day, which I promptly throw in the recycling bin. Yesterday, I noticed a bump in one manila envelope, and so I opened it up. There was no written information about the college from where the envelope originated inside. It was a single orange yo-yo with the name of the college inscribed on it. What a racket! I thought to myself, like putting a toy in a cereal box to entice kids to eat their sugar coated flakes.

“You’ve got to hand it to them. At least it’s original,” my husband later said, as I was demonstrating my yo-yo skills to him.

"Look, I learned how to make it “walk the dog,” I answered.

Do you have any exciting highlights to share?

Yesterday's exciting highlights:

A bird that sounded like a ringing cell phone flew into the house and couldn’t get back out. I was in the upstairs office when I heard it, and I nervously crept down the stairs to see what it was because I don’t own a cell phone.

My husband’s nephew, who was having trouble with his home-life, came to live with us for a couple of months this summer. Because he was recently a senior in high school, we began to get tons of college promotional mail in his name. Even though he is not planning to go to college any time soon and has moved out, we still get stacks of the stuff every day, which I promptly throw in the recycling bin. Yesterday, I noticed a bump in one manila envelope, and so I opened it up. There was no written information about the college from where the envelope originated inside. It was a single orange yo-yo with the name of the college inscribed on it. What a racket! I thought to myself, like putting a toy in a cereal box to entice kids to eat their sugar coated flakes.

“You’ve got to hand it to them. At least it’s original,” my husband later said, as I was demonstrating my yo-yo skills to him.

"Look, I learned how to make it “walk the dog,” I answered.

Do you have any exciting highlights to share?

August 23, 2005

Poetry: A Bubbling Spring

Ruby2.png One of my most interesting writing assignments was interviewing Ruby Altizer Roberts in the fall of 1999 for Expressions magazine, a Blacksburg art publication that is no longer in existence. In 1950 Ruby was voted the first woman Poet Laureate of Virginia by the General Assembly. In 1992, she was given the added title of Virginia’s Poet Laureate Emeritus, another first.

Born here in Floyd County in 1907, Ruby lived most of her life in the neighboring town of Christiansburg. I can still remember how nervous I was and what I was wearing – khaki pants, a black blazer, and a green printed scarf – on the day she opened the front door of her home in Christiansburg to greet me. Commenting on my Irish name and telling me that her estate was called “The Shamrocks,” her gracious manner soon put me at ease. I noticed the cameo-like pin she wore on her lace-trimmed dark dress, and that she had more energy than any 93 year old I had ever met before. She was faithful but not dogmatic, and as interested in metaphysics and preventative medicine as she was religion and history.

Even though my tape recorder didn’t work, and I later found two grammatical errors that I'll never be able to correct in the published interview, the time I spent with Ruby was a delightful and memorable experience. I think she enjoyed it too. Although I was a novice at conducting an interview, soon after it appeared in print, Ruby sent me a postcard congratulating me for being “better than the best” and for “reading between the lines.”

“I have never been interviewed by a more intelligent and observing person,” she wrote. (So much for grammatical errors.) I think Ruby understood and appreciated that I recognized her for open-minded person she was.

When Ruby passed away in the spring of 2004, I was in Massachusetts for the Hull Village Reunion. A reporter for the Roanoke Times phoned my mother’s house, where I was staying, because I was the last one to interview Ruby, and she wanted my reaction. After talking for a few moments about Ruby, I told the reporter this: At one point during the interview, I asked her, “Why poetry? What is poetry’s purpose?” Ruby lit up and answered, “What is the purpose of a spring? It bubbled forth and I wrote it down.” And that’s how Ruby was, like a bubbling spring, I told the reporter.

Not only did the newspaper use my quote, they titled their article with it. “That’s the way she was, like a bubbling spring” read the Sunday, May 30th headline.

Sometimes I think no other land…Does exalt the spring…With cardinal flash, with redbud fire…And dogwood blossoming. For here it seems God set once more…And Eden print on Earth…And spoke another Genesis…Of man’s potential worth. Excerpted from “Virginia” by Ruby Altizer Roberts

Post note: For a timeline of past national Poet Laureates click on http://www.loc.gov/poetry/laureate.html

Poetry: A Bubbling Spring

Ruby2.png One of my most interesting writing assignments was interviewing Ruby Altizer Roberts in the fall of 1999 for Expressions magazine, a Blacksburg art publication that is no longer in existence. In 1950 Ruby was voted the first woman Poet Laureate of Virginia by the General Assembly. In 1992, she was given the added title of Virginia’s Poet Laureate Emeritus, another first.

Born here in Floyd County in 1907, Ruby lived most of her life in the neighboring town of Christiansburg. I can still remember how nervous I was and what I was wearing – khaki pants, a black blazer, and a green printed scarf – on the day she opened the front door of her home in Christiansburg to greet me. Commenting on my Irish name and telling me that her estate was called “The Shamrocks,” her gracious manner soon put me at ease. I noticed the cameo-like pin she wore on her lace-trimmed dark dress, and that she had more energy than any 93 year old I had ever met before. She was faithful but not dogmatic, and as interested in metaphysics and preventative medicine as she was religion and history.

Even though my tape recorder didn’t work, and I later found two grammatical errors that I'll never be able to correct in the published interview, the time I spent with Ruby was a delightful and memorable experience. I think she enjoyed it too. Although I was a novice at conducting an interview, soon after it appeared in print, Ruby sent me a postcard congratulating me for being “better than the best” and for “reading between the lines.”

“I have never been interviewed by a more intelligent and observing person,” she wrote. (So much for grammatical errors.) I think Ruby understood and appreciated that I recognized her for open-minded person she was.

When Ruby passed away in the spring of 2004, I was in Massachusetts for the Hull Village Reunion. A reporter for the Roanoke Times phoned my mother’s house, where I was staying, because I was the last one to interview Ruby, and she wanted my reaction. After talking for a few moments about Ruby, I told the reporter this: At one point during the interview, I asked her, “Why poetry? What is poetry’s purpose?” Ruby lit up and answered, “What is the purpose of a spring? It bubbled forth and I wrote it down.” And that’s how Ruby was, like a bubbling spring, I told the reporter.

Not only did the newspaper use my quote, they titled their article with it. “That’s the way she was, like a bubbling spring” read the Sunday, May 30th headline.

Sometimes I think no other land…Does exalt the spring…With cardinal flash, with redbud fire…And dogwood blossoming. For here it seems God set once more…And Eden print on Earth…And spoke another Genesis…Of man’s potential worth. Excerpted from “Virginia” by Ruby Altizer Roberts

Post note: For a timeline of past national Poet Laureates click on http://www.loc.gov/poetry/laureate.html

August 22, 2005

A Mother’s Work is Never Done

potato crop.png Lately, I’ve been spending more time with vegetables than I have with people. Braiding onions – the tangled hair on the little girls I never had… Lining up Yukon Gold potatoes – more than an Irish Catholic mother’s brood… Babying the volunteer turnip plants that have sprouted up, as though they were orphans needing adoption... And squishing gangs of squash bugs with my bare hands, like a mother fending off bullies to protect her darling baby butternuts…

Gardening is a great companion activity to blogging. It gets me out of my mind and into the mud. Or is it the other way around?

A Mother’s Work is Never Done

potato crop.png Lately, I’ve been spending more time with vegetables than I have with people. Braiding onions – the tangled hair on the little girls I never had… Lining up Yukon Gold potatoes – more than an Irish Catholic mother’s brood… Babying the volunteer turnip plants that have sprouted up, as though they were orphans needing adoption... And squishing gangs of squash bugs with my bare hands, like a mother fending off bullies to protect her darling baby butternuts…

Gardening is a great companion activity to blogging. It gets me out of my mind and into the mud. Or is it the other way around?

August 21, 2005

Girl Talk

The pool wasn’t busy the last time I was there. With so many empty lounge chairs to pick from, I made a couple of false starts before making my final decision on which one would be my base of operation. Ironically, it’s a lot easier to choose a lounge chair when the pool is crowded and I know which only remaining one is mine.

I enjoy listening to the young teenaged girls – still young enough to walk all the way over to the other side of the pool to get money from their mothers when they want a candy bar or ice cream, but old enough to be talking about shaving their legs.

One girl tells the group the same thing I heard when I was their age, something I’ve come to suspect is an adult attempt to get girls to hold off shaving. “If you shave your legs before all the hair comes in, you’ll get rough stubbles,” she reveals to the attentive group of four.

Another has a secret the rest are trying to pry out of her. It has something to do with a boy.

Now I’m in the water because it’s time for the “adult swim.” I wonder if I’d enjoy swimming nearly as much if the concrete that holds the pool water was painted any other color but blue. The girls have hung large colored beach towels between the lounge chairs and the fence to make a private tent that they’re sitting under. But I can still hear them talking when my slow breast stroke laps take me to their side of the pool.

The new subject is unappealing school cafeteria food. The blonde girl, who apparently is already up at the high school says, “…pizza and chicken nuggets everyday.” By the sound of her voice, I can practically see her nose turned up.

Kids begin to line up along the edge of the pool, waiting to hear the blow of the lifeguard’s whistle, which will signal that they can go back into the pool. The girl’s conversation continues in hushed in tones now. I smile, as I glide in the cool clear water, remembering my own summer days as a girl and thinking, “Some things don’t change all that much.”

Girl Talk

The pool wasn’t busy the last time I was there. With so many empty lounge chairs to pick from, I made a couple of false starts before making my final decision on which one would be my base of operation. Ironically, it’s a lot easier to choose a lounge chair when the pool is crowded and I know which only remaining one is mine.

I enjoy listening to the young teenaged girls – still young enough to walk all the way over to the other side of the pool to get money from their mothers when they want a candy bar or ice cream, but old enough to be talking about shaving their legs.

One girl tells the group the same thing I heard when I was their age, something I’ve come to suspect is an adult attempt to get girls to hold off shaving. “If you shave your legs before all the hair comes in, you’ll get rough stubbles,” she reveals to the attentive group of four.

Another has a secret the rest are trying to pry out of her. It has something to do with a boy.

Now I’m in the water because it’s time for the “adult swim.” I wonder if I’d enjoy swimming nearly as much if the concrete that holds the pool water was painted any other color but blue. The girls have hung large colored beach towels between the lounge chairs and the fence to make a private tent that they’re sitting under. But I can still hear them talking when my slow breast stroke laps take me to their side of the pool.

The new subject is unappealing school cafeteria food. The blonde girl, who apparently is already up at the high school says, “…pizza and chicken nuggets everyday.” By the sound of her voice, I can practically see her nose turned up.

Kids begin to line up along the edge of the pool, waiting to hear the blow of the lifeguard’s whistle, which will signal that they can go back into the pool. The girl’s conversation continues in hushed in tones now. I smile, as I glide in the cool clear water, remembering my own summer days as a girl and thinking, “Some things don’t change all that much.”

August 20, 2005

Love at First Bite

butterfly on marigolds.png A butterfly flew straight towards me, without any introduction, and landed on my bright Caribbean blue sundress. The one that I wear when I’m gardening with the palm trees on pink islands and yellow hibiscus flowers on it.

“It was a swallowtail,” my friend later told me when I described its yellow and black striped body.

The butterflies certainly are active this time of year. A second one landed on me later. I take it as a compliment to be mistaken for a flower. But once, when my sister, Sherry and I were at a Florida zoo with my grandmother, a goat in the petting zoo tried to eat my dress. That time I screamed and ran away.

Love at First Bite

butterfly on marigolds.png A butterfly flew straight towards me, without any introduction, and landed on my bright Caribbean blue sundress. The one that I wear when I’m gardening with the palm trees on pink islands and yellow hibiscus flowers on it.

“It was a swallowtail,” my friend later told me when I described its yellow and black striped body.

The butterflies certainly are active this time of year. A second one landed on me later. I take it as a compliment to be mistaken for a flower. But once, when my sister, Sherry and I were at a Florida zoo with my grandmother, a goat in the petting zoo tried to eat my dress. That time I screamed and ran away.

August 19, 2005

Walk in My Shoes

skyesshoes.pngAKA: How Green is Your Grass? After my recent post, a day in my life in 25 easy steps (a description of my current typical day), I received a couple of comments that caused me to suspect that some readers might have the impression that my life is idyllic. I think things can sound better in print than they really are, in the same way that a photograph can look “picture perfect,” but it only captures an instant in time, or an aspect of a whole story.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately (even before the above mentioned post) how other people’s lives often look better from afar than they usually actually are. Sort of how watching a couple paddling in a canoe along a shimmering lake on a sunny day can look so peaceful and make you feel that you wish you had a canoe too. But if you were actually in the canoe, the reality might be more like this: Your arms hurt from rowing. It’s hot and sticky. Mosquitoes are biting you.

It’s true that because my grown sons are out on their own, and because I recently retired from full-time foster care (I’m currently doing respite foster care for others a couple of weekends a month.), I have more time for writing and gardening. I did go on a month long sabbatical this summer to my hometown peninsula in Massachusetts, and I have been camping on the weekends with my husband in our palomino camper.

I do have a good life, one full of many blessings. But there’s something unmentioned underlying the above scenario that makes it less than ideal, which is this: as a recovering Chronic Fatigue sufferer, it’s part of my ongoing therapy to keep my life as simple as possible. While I enjoy my life, I also have to meter out my activities; I can’t deal with high stress, and I haven’t been able to hold a full time job outside the home since I was in my mid-20s.

I keep thinking I’m going to write more about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (which I believe is really a symptom, as opposed to a disease and one that has almost as many causes as there are people who have it) because there might be others out there who struggle with it worse than I do who would like to hear my story. But the truth is I don’t write that much about it because it’s really not all that interesting, and I don’t want to give energy to it. I don’t tend to write about the maggots in my compost bucket either.

Whether one has a bad back, a bad marriage, a disabled child, an addiction, or whatever, I think we can assume that we all carry some personal burdens. And hopefully, we know we can decide to make the best of life regardless of them.

Photo: Skye’s shoes. I knew this photo would come in handy someday.

Walk in My Shoes

skyesshoes.pngAKA: How Green is Your Grass? After my recent post, a day in my life in 25 easy steps (a description of my current typical day), I received a couple of comments that caused me to suspect that some readers might have the impression that my life is idyllic. I think things can sound better in print than they really are, in the same way that a photograph can look “picture perfect,” but it only captures an instant in time, or an aspect of a whole story.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately (even before the above mentioned post) how other people’s lives often look better from afar than they usually actually are. Sort of how watching a couple paddling in a canoe along a shimmering lake on a sunny day can look so peaceful and make you feel that you wish you had a canoe too. But if you were actually in the canoe, the reality might be more like this: Your arms hurt from rowing. It’s hot and sticky. Mosquitoes are biting you.

It’s true that because my grown sons are out on their own, and because I recently retired from full-time foster care (I’m currently doing respite foster care for others a couple of weekends a month.), I have more time for writing and gardening. I did go on a month long sabbatical this summer to my hometown peninsula in Massachusetts, and I have been camping on the weekends with my husband in our palomino camper.

I do have a good life, one full of many blessings. But there’s something unmentioned underlying the above scenario that makes it less than ideal, which is this: as a recovering Chronic Fatigue sufferer, it’s part of my ongoing therapy to keep my life as simple as possible. While I enjoy my life, I also have to meter out my activities; I can’t deal with high stress, and I haven’t been able to hold a full time job outside the home since I was in my mid-20s.

I keep thinking I’m going to write more about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (which I believe is really a symptom, as opposed to a disease and one that has almost as many causes as there are people who have it) because there might be others out there who struggle with it worse than I do who would like to hear my story. But the truth is I don’t write that much about it because it’s really not all that interesting, and I don’t want to give energy to it. I don’t tend to write about the maggots in my compost bucket either.

Whether one has a bad back, a bad marriage, a disabled child, an addiction, or whatever, I think we can assume that we all carry some personal burdens. And hopefully, we know we can decide to make the best of life regardless of them.

Photo: Skye’s shoes. I knew this photo would come in handy someday.

August 18, 2005

Common Ground

Some folks feel protesting is wrong, that you should mind your own business. But when the biggest earth mover in the world shows up at your gate, you suddenly realize that industry regulation is your business. ~ Author and poet George Ella Lyons, talking about strip mining in coal fields of Kentucky.

If a family member was perpetrating domestic violence, I hope I would confront him, seek help, and maybe even call the police or 911, if necessary. I wouldn’t expect to be labeled anti-family for doing so. I wouldn’t expect my actions to be perceived as disloyalty towards the perpetrator, and especially not towards other family members.

Abuse of power thrives in silence and silence is often obtained through fear. Name calling is one of the easiest ways to instill fear and stifle dissent. It can temporarily stop debate – debate that might be uncomfortable, but could also lead to understanding and change. But it doesn’t stop problems. In fact, without a constructive forum for dissent, resentments go underground, where they are fueled and can cause existing problems to be magnified.

Our country was founded on protest and revolt against governmental abuse of power. Yet, today when Americans protest controversial government policies, they are frequently labeled as un-American or unpatriotic. In an April, 2003 commentary, “Rediscovering Patriotism,” published by The Roanoke Times and commondreams.org, I wrote: I believe a patriot is one that is an active and informed participant of his or her government, one who is passionate about upholding the ideals its country stands for, not just in word but in deed. This could mean going to war to defend your country, but it also could mean guarding against the overstepping of your country, such as when it initiates offensive wars against weaker nations.

Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq who is camped out near President Bush’s Texas ranch, is demanding that the President answer her questions. She has become the unlikely lightening rod for so many who have grave concerns about the war in Iraq and believe it to be an elective war of aggression that was misrepresented to the public and then rushed into without proper post war planning. While Sheehan’s vigil is supported by many, others are angry and trying to discredit her.

I have no doubt that Cindy cares deeply about the troops in Iraq and all the lives that have been lost there. I believe her actions are a result of following her conscience. If there is any common ground between her supporters and detractors, I think it lies somewhere in the likelihood that the majority on both sides of the issue come from a place of caring about others. They just express it in different ways.

I’m amazed and encouraged that one ordinary woman has a better chance of holding President Bush accountable for the war in Iraq than the nearly half a million protesters who marched on Washington D.C. in 2003 in an attempt to stop a war they believed didn’t have to happen.

Common Ground

Some folks feel protesting is wrong, that you should mind your own business. But when the biggest earth mover in the world shows up at your gate, you suddenly realize that industry regulation is your business. ~ Author and poet George Ella Lyons, talking about strip mining in coal fields of Kentucky.

If a family member was perpetrating domestic violence, I hope I would confront him, seek help, and maybe even call the police or 911, if necessary. I wouldn’t expect to be labeled anti-family for doing so. I wouldn’t expect my actions to be perceived as disloyalty towards the perpetrator, and especially not towards other family members.

Abuse of power thrives in silence and silence is often obtained through fear. Name calling is one of the easiest ways to instill fear and stifle dissent. It can temporarily stop debate – debate that might be uncomfortable, but could also lead to understanding and change. But it doesn’t stop problems. In fact, without a constructive forum for dissent, resentments go underground, where they are fueled and can cause existing problems to be magnified.

Our country was founded on protest and revolt against governmental abuse of power. Yet, today when Americans protest controversial government policies, they are frequently labeled as un-American or unpatriotic. In an April, 2003 commentary, “Rediscovering Patriotism,” published by The Roanoke Times and commondreams.org, I wrote: I believe a patriot is one that is an active and informed participant of his or her government, one who is passionate about upholding the ideals its country stands for, not just in word but in deed. This could mean going to war to defend your country, but it also could mean guarding against the overstepping of your country, such as when it initiates offensive wars against weaker nations.

Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq who is camped out near President Bush’s Texas ranch, is demanding that the President answer her questions. She has become the unlikely lightening rod for so many who have grave concerns about the war in Iraq and believe it to be an elective war of aggression that was misrepresented to the public and then rushed into without proper post war planning. While Sheehan’s vigil is supported by many, others are angry and trying to discredit her.

I have no doubt that Cindy cares deeply about the troops in Iraq and all the lives that have been lost there. I believe her actions are a result of following her conscience. If there is any common ground between her supporters and detractors, I think it lies somewhere in the likelihood that the majority on both sides of the issue come from a place of caring about others. They just express it in different ways.

I’m amazed and encouraged that one ordinary woman has a better chance of holding President Bush accountable for the war in Iraq than the nearly half a million protesters who marched on Washington D.C. in 2003 in an attempt to stop a war they believed didn’t have to happen.

August 17, 2005

A Day in the Life…

Woke up, fell out of bed, Dragged a comb across my head, Found my way downstairs and drank a cup, And looking up I noticed I was late… ~ The Beatles

The following is one typical day in my current life, told in 25 easy steps.

1. Sometimes, when I wake up, I find a pen and immediately start writing. A mug full of tea is also involved.
2. I have to discipline myself to meditate before I go upstairs to the computer. I practice "passage meditation," as taught by Eknath Eswaran.
3. The following is an excerpt from the passage by Rumi that I’m currently mediating on: Everything you see has its roots in the unseen world. The forms may change, but the essence remains the same. Every wondrous sight will vanish. Every sweet word will fade. But do not be disheartened, the source they come from is eternal...
4. While meditating, I remembered this dream: I was at a cottage, vacationing with a group of various old friends. Jack, a friend and former boss, was there, looking at a big book (of memories or information) that I was intrigued by. After a while, he went out to grocery shop. I shouted, “Don’t forget eggs!” Then, I got the book to look at, and when he returned, I was still looking at it and was disappointed that I would have to give it back.
5. I thought about naming this post “Yesterday,” which led to my wondering how long I could get away with naming all my blog posts after Beatle songs.
6. Some interesting email subjects headers today: Blog wars, Blog some more, The latest development, Birth of a hummingbird, Make them accountable, and Colleen, are you on the computer right now?
7. Faraway places where Loose Leaf readers have recently come from, according to my stat counter: Singapore, Alaska, and Norway.
8. I washed my hair and put in a load of laundry.
9. After breakfast, I cleaned the mess in the kitchen from the night before.
10. I worked on a poem that I’m having trouble ending. It’s as if my own words have painted me into a corner. I’ve been trying to free myself for over a month now.
11. I packed up 10 copies of “The Jim and Dan Stories” to send to my mother, who sells them out of her house in Hull, Massachusetts. I wrote her and my dad a short letter on bright pink paper. My handwriting gets worse with every passing year.
11. I cleaned off my son’s old toy box in the computer room/office that used to be his bedroom, going through the stacks of papers that had piled up on it, and trying not to spend too much time re-reading everything.
12. I talked to my girlfriend, Katherine, on the phone: “No, I can’t go see Arlo Guthrie with you on that weekend. Joe and I are going to Colorado for his brother’s wedding,” I told her.
13. I am reading 4 books at the same time. I picked up one, “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon, that my friend Fred got (a signed copy) at the Hindman Writer’s Retreat and lent to me. Lyons says about poetry: “It wasn’t invented to be hard to understand or to belong to a few people only. It was invented to carry crucial things through space and time, to help the mind hold and share the heart’s treasure. Poetry is for you. It’s in you…” I had to discipline myself to read without marking up Fred’s book with the parts I liked best. I decided not to take it to the pool.
14. It’s too late to go to the pool now.
15. I drove to the Post Office to mail the books, and then to the grocery store. I only needed a basket instead of a shopping cart because our garden is full of vegetables; there is still some venison in our freezer; my sons are on there own; and I no longer do full-time foster care, which means that I only cook for my husband, Joe, and me now.
16. At the post office, I chat with a friend while waiting in line. He and his wife are taking their son to college this week, he tells me.
17. Buying stamps, I ask the postmaster, “Do you have “love stamps?” Oh good, that’s a nice message to send out (all you need is love), don’t you think?”
18. I usually can’t make it through a day without some kind of nap. I have learned to honor this.
19. The phone rang, but I didn’t answer it.
20. I picked corn and yet more tomatoes. I also squished a couple of corn borers with my bare hands.
21. I picked basil but forgot to make the pesto.
22. Near sunset, Joe and I walked to the ridge on Hope Road. The bad news is that developers recently clear-cut 100 or so acres there. The good news is that it opened up the view and we can watch the sunset. But I’d much rather have the woods than the open field, bare of all trees, if anyone’s asking.
23. The evening passage mediation was by Lao Tzu... “Break into the peace within, hold your attention in stillness, and in the world outside, you will ably master the 1000 things…”
24. After my bath, I watched some TV, alternating between the network’s “Medium” and a show about retirement on PBS, while lifting 3 pound weights.
25. I went to bed late (after 12:30), after futzing around on the computer. I didn’t go to sleep right away. It got up (more than once) to write the draft to this entry.

Post note: It’s interesting that my day started and ended with writing. I also hope friends who read this notice that I do other things besides blogging.

A Day in the Life…

Woke up, fell out of bed, Dragged a comb across my head, Found my way downstairs and drank a cup, And looking up I noticed I was late… ~ The Beatles

The following is one typical day in my current life, told in 25 easy steps.

1. Sometimes, when I wake up, I find a pen and immediately start writing. A mug full of tea is also involved.
2. I have to discipline myself to meditate before I go upstairs to the computer. I practice "passage meditation," as taught by Eknath Eswaran.
3. The following is an excerpt from the passage by Rumi that I’m currently mediating on: Everything you see has its roots in the unseen world. The forms may change, but the essence remains the same. Every wondrous sight will vanish. Every sweet word will fade. But do not be disheartened, the source they come from is eternal...
4. While meditating, I remembered this dream: I was at a cottage, vacationing with a group of various old friends. Jack, a friend and former boss, was there, looking at a big book (of memories or information) that I was intrigued by. After a while, he went out to grocery shop. I shouted, “Don’t forget eggs!” Then, I got the book to look at, and when he returned, I was still looking at it and was disappointed that I would have to give it back.
5. I thought about naming this post “Yesterday,” which led to my wondering how long I could get away with naming all my blog posts after Beatle songs.
6. Some interesting email subjects headers today: Blog wars, Blog some more, The latest development, Birth of a hummingbird, Make them accountable, and Colleen, are you on the computer right now?
7. Faraway places where Loose Leaf readers have recently come from, according to my stat counter: Singapore, Alaska, and Norway.
8. I washed my hair and put in a load of laundry.
9. After breakfast, I cleaned the mess in the kitchen from the night before.
10. I worked on a poem that I’m having trouble ending. It’s as if my own words have painted me into a corner. I’ve been trying to free myself for over a month now.
11. I packed up 10 copies of “The Jim and Dan Stories” to send to my mother, who sells them out of her house in Hull, Massachusetts. I wrote her and my dad a short letter on bright pink paper. My handwriting gets worse with every passing year.
11. I cleaned off my son’s old toy box in the computer room/office that used to be his bedroom, going through the stacks of papers that had piled up on it, and trying not to spend too much time re-reading everything.
12. I talked to my girlfriend, Katherine, on the phone: “No, I can’t go see Arlo Guthrie with you on that weekend. Joe and I are going to Colorado for his brother’s wedding,” I told her.
13. I am reading 4 books at the same time. I picked up one, “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon, that my friend Fred got (a signed copy) at the Hindman Writer’s Retreat and lent to me. Lyons says about poetry: “It wasn’t invented to be hard to understand or to belong to a few people only. It was invented to carry crucial things through space and time, to help the mind hold and share the heart’s treasure. Poetry is for you. It’s in you…” I had to discipline myself to read without marking up Fred’s book with the parts I liked best. I decided not to take it to the pool.
14. It’s too late to go to the pool now.
15. I drove to the Post Office to mail the books, and then to the grocery store. I only needed a basket instead of a shopping cart because our garden is full of vegetables; there is still some venison in our freezer; my sons are on there own; and I no longer do full-time foster care, which means that I only cook for my husband, Joe, and me now.
16. At the post office, I chat with a friend while waiting in line. He and his wife are taking their son to college this week, he tells me.
17. Buying stamps, I ask the postmaster, “Do you have “love stamps?” Oh good, that’s a nice message to send out (all you need is love), don’t you think?”
18. I usually can’t make it through a day without some kind of nap. I have learned to honor this.
19. The phone rang, but I didn’t answer it.
20. I picked corn and yet more tomatoes. I also squished a couple of corn borers with my bare hands.
21. I picked basil but forgot to make the pesto.
22. Near sunset, Joe and I walked to the ridge on Hope Road. The bad news is that developers recently clear-cut 100 or so acres there. The good news is that it opened up the view and we can watch the sunset. But I’d much rather have the woods than the open field, bare of all trees, if anyone’s asking.
23. The evening passage mediation was by Lao Tzu... “Break into the peace within, hold your attention in stillness, and in the world outside, you will ably master the 1000 things…”
24. After my bath, I watched some TV, alternating between the network’s “Medium” and a show about retirement on PBS, while lifting 3 pound weights.
25. I went to bed late (after 12:30), after futzing around on the computer. I didn’t go to sleep right away. It got up (more than once) to write the draft to this entry.

Post note: It’s interesting that my day started and ended with writing. I also hope friends who read this notice that I do other things besides blogging.

August 16, 2005

Pay Day!

joeincorn.png
When my husband asked me recently what he could do to help in the garden, my answer was, “EAT! IT’S PAY DAY!”

August Gold

We get paid in corn
for our garden labor
We strike it rich
with every husk
pulled back

The sun has forged
an Aztec banquet
a silky purse
for August gold

The rain has raised
a gold rush harvest
We reap the profits
of its Midas touch

With bellies full
we dig potatoes
for poorer days
when corn is spent

Pay Day!

joeincorn.png
When my husband asked me recently what he could do to help in the garden, my answer was, “EAT! IT’S PAY DAY!”

August Gold

We get paid in corn
for our garden labor
We strike it rich
with every husk
pulled back

The sun has forged
an Aztec banquet
a silky purse
for August gold

The rain has raised
a gold rush harvest
We reap the profits
of its Midas touch

With bellies full
we dig potatoes
for poorer days
when corn is spent

August 15, 2005

My Kind of Car Wash

colleenincorn.pngMy kind of car wash is the rain. It saves me from having to pay to get my car washed and from using the hose on my corn.

Recently, I tried to unravel our green garden hose from the hook that it hangs on, but it was attached to my rake by a vine, and I had to pull hard to free it. This made me suspect that Virginia's drought might be over. I haven’t watered my garden once this summer, which is a stark contrast from a couple of years ago when it was so dry that I watered it with buckets of used bath water.

My corn is over 7 feet tall with up to 3 ears of corn on each stalk, but it hasn’t always been this way. Look what happens when corn doesn’t get enough fertilizer or rain…

dirt poor

poverty stricken soil
makes corn with missing teeth
a yellow bucked grin
so many mouths to feed

a tassel thinning cob
in a dried up crooked husk
stands in over-crowded rows
on bow-legged stalks

a mob of disappointment
gets a hosed down torrent
gets a hand-out pittance
for their dirt poor crop

My Kind of Car Wash

colleenincorn.pngMy kind of car wash is the rain. It saves me from having to pay to get my car washed and from using the hose on my corn.

Recently, I tried to unravel our green garden hose from the hook that it hangs on, but it was attached to my rake by a vine, and I had to pull hard to free it. This made me suspect that Virginia's drought might be over. I haven’t watered my garden once this summer, which is a stark contrast from a couple of years ago when it was so dry that I watered it with buckets of used bath water.

My corn is over 7 feet tall with up to 3 ears of corn on each stalk, but it hasn’t always been this way. Look what happens when corn doesn’t get enough fertilizer or rain…

dirt poor

poverty stricken soil
makes corn with missing teeth
a yellow bucked grin
so many mouths to feed

a tassel thinning cob
in a dried up crooked husk
stands in over-crowded rows
on bow-legged stalks

a mob of disappointment
gets a hosed down torrent
gets a hand-out pittance
for their dirt poor crop

August 14, 2005

Moon Walk to the Mail Box

I didn’t have to get the mail. All I get is catalogs and junk mail these days. I just wanted to stay outside in the night, under the stars a little longer, after my jump on the trampoline.

But our driveway is long, nearly ¼ of a mile, and I had forgotten that the larger portion of it is shaded by woods on either side. It was darker than I expected, and at one point, I considered turning back, but I didn’t.

I could barely make out the arm of my long sleeved white blouse under the canopy of leafy trees, and I couldn’t see anything else. I tried to widen my eyes and then focus them intently, as if that would help. Feeling like a vehicle navigating through thick fog, I walked for memory and according to the sound my feet made. If I didn’t hear the gravel moving beneath my awkward shuffled gait, I knew I was headed for the woods.

At the end of our driveway, where it empties onto The Blue Ridge Parkway, the landscape finally opened up. There, I saw the orange crescent moon peeking through the clouds, the kind of moon we drew witches flying over in October when we were kids.

At the mail box, the stack of mostly white envelopes in my hand seemed to glow in the dark. Credit card offers, I supposed.

The return trip went quicker. When I hit the darkest part of the walk, our dog began to bark, as if, once she couldn’t see me any more, she forgot who I was. Or maybe she was barking at a critter…a deer…a skunk…or bear! That was when I quickened my step.

Next time I walk to the mailbox at night, I’ll wait till the moon is full…or take a flashlight.

Have you seen the moon lately?

Moon Walk to the Mail Box

I didn’t have to get the mail. All I get is catalogs and junk mail these days. I just wanted to stay outside in the night, under the stars a little longer, after my jump on the trampoline.

But our driveway is long, nearly ¼ of a mile, and I had forgotten that the larger portion of it is shaded by woods on either side. It was darker than I expected, and at one point, I considered turning back, but I didn’t.

I could barely make out the arm of my long sleeved white blouse under the canopy of leafy trees, and I couldn’t see anything else. I tried to widen my eyes and then focus them intently, as if that would help. Feeling like a vehicle navigating through thick fog, I walked for memory and according to the sound my feet made. If I didn’t hear the gravel moving beneath my awkward shuffled gait, I knew I was headed for the woods.

At the end of our driveway, where it empties onto The Blue Ridge Parkway, the landscape finally opened up. There, I saw the orange crescent moon peeking through the clouds, the kind of moon we drew witches flying over in October when we were kids.

At the mail box, the stack of mostly white envelopes in my hand seemed to glow in the dark. Credit card offers, I supposed.

The return trip went quicker. When I hit the darkest part of the walk, our dog began to bark, as if, once she couldn’t see me any more, she forgot who I was. Or maybe she was barking at a critter…a deer…a skunk…or bear! That was when I quickened my step.

Next time I walk to the mailbox at night, I’ll wait till the moon is full…or take a flashlight.

Have you seen the moon lately?

August 12, 2005

I Want an Ocean on the Front Page

nantasketbeach3.pngMy husband, Joe, and I live on the dividend of the honest communication that we’ve invested in each other over time. With just a little maintenance and upkeep, our relationship remains rewarding. He’s not even jealous that I sometimes yearn for a long distance love……the ocean. In fact, he drives me to it a couple of times a year. I overheard him recently saying to my sister about me, “If she gets out of sorts or is taking herself too serious, I take her to the ocean. There, she’s as giddy as a girl.”

Upon my return from my month long sabbatical by the ocean in Massachusetts, I went through some withdrawal pangs. And when the last of the “beach sketches” I wrote while I was there went off the front page of my blog, I felt forlorn.

The ocean is 5 hours away from where Joe and I live, in The Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, so sometimes a pool, a pond, or a lake has to do. We’re headed out today to camp along a lake. I guess Joe thinks I need an attitude adjustment, or maybe he just wants to see me not acting my age.

The Photo: This is a case where a digital camera would have come in handy. It was taken on Nantasket Beach in Hull, Massachusetts, during one of my sunset walks this past July. It should have accompanied Beach Sketch IV.

I Want an Ocean on the Front Page

nantasketbeach3.pngMy husband, Joe, and I live on the dividend of the honest communication that we’ve invested in each other over time. With just a little maintenance and upkeep, our relationship remains rewarding. He’s not even jealous that I sometimes yearn for a long distance love……the ocean. In fact, he drives me to it a couple of times a year. I overheard him recently saying to my sister about me, “If she gets out of sorts or is taking herself too serious, I take her to the ocean. There, she’s as giddy as a girl.”

Upon my return from my month long sabbatical by the ocean in Massachusetts, I went through some withdrawal pangs. And when the last of the “beach sketches” I wrote while I was there went off the front page of my blog, I felt forlorn.

The ocean is 5 hours away from where Joe and I live, in The Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, so sometimes a pool, a pond, or a lake has to do. We’re headed out today to camp along a lake. I guess Joe thinks I need an attitude adjustment, or maybe he just wants to see me not acting my age.

The Photo: This is a case where a digital camera would have come in handy. It was taken on Nantasket Beach in Hull, Massachusetts, during one of my sunset walks this past July. It should have accompanied Beach Sketch IV.

August 11, 2005

Have You Seen Me Lately?

I had lunch with one of my dearest friends yesterday, a poet and an environmental activist. Although she’s more than 20 years older than me, she remains faithfully active, while I have become somewhat burned-out, fed-up, and a little apathetic when it comes to world affairs.

Over our Indian rice and dahl, she recommended an exciting new book, “Confessions of an Economic Hit-man,” in which the author, John Perkins, describes how, as a highly paid member of the international banking community, he helped the U.S. cheat poor countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars by lending them more money than they could possibly repay and then taking over their economies. “It’s very important to read this. The situation is worse than I thought it was,” she said, as she held up the hardcover book with a photo of the author on it for me to see.

Of course, then the 60th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki came up. My eyes began to glaze over. Not because I didn’t care, but because I couldn’t absorb any more of the world’s suffering created by U.S. policies, especially since those in power and so many Americans are fervently invested in continuing with business as usual.

Trying to change the subject to something more current, I said, “Have you been following the protest of Cindy Sheehan outside Bush’s Crawford Texas Ranch? It’s gotten some good coverage. I’m sure some view her as a radical, but I wonder if I could be so brave. And what does she have to lose; she already lost her son in Iraq?”

“Did you write about her on your blog?” My friend asked.

"I started my blog partly to get away from writing about politics," I answered.

“Why?” she pressed.

After explaining the intent and focus of “Loose Leaf” and how I wanted my writing to be less serious and more personal, I continued by giving her my policy on blogging politics, “I don’t do gratuitous politics, but if it comes up in the context of story or a stream of thought, I don’t shy away from it,” I answered. “Besides, I’m tired of preaching to the choir,” I added.

Just a few days before this, while in the Café de Sol to play scrabble, I pulled up “Loose Leaf” at the wireless computer station to show one of my Writers’ Workshop members who rarely touches a computer.

“How many hours a day do you spend on this?” was about all he said.

Later in the day, I thought to myself, "Hey, I didn’t ask him how many hours a day he watches TV, or how many hours a day he’s wasted at a job doing someone else’s work..."

But is does seem that, while blogging gives me a good forum to keep my writing practice sharp, it also can distract me from larger projects. And with so much pain and suffering and corruption in the world, shouldn't I be doing more?

Ah…still explaining what the heck I’ve been doing lately to my friends…and sometimes to myself.

Post Note: For a thought provoking article, which I found via blogcruiser, check out “Writers make good bloggers, but does blogging affect good writing?” written by Tom Dolby and published recently in the San Francisco Chronicle. Also, here are a couple of good links on Cindy Sheehan’s activism as posted on Moveon.org: "One Mother in Crawford" Editorial, The New York Times, August 9,2005. Video Testimonial by Cindy Sheehan from TrueMajority. To read some of my past politcal commentaries you can go to my website.

Have You Seen Me Lately?

I had lunch with one of my dearest friends yesterday, a poet and an environmental activist. Although she’s more than 20 years older than me, she remains faithfully active, while I have become somewhat burned-out, fed-up, and a little apathetic when it comes to world affairs.

Over our Indian rice and dahl, she recommended an exciting new book, “Confessions of an Economic Hit-man,” in which the author, John Perkins, describes how, as a highly paid member of the international banking community, he helped the U.S. cheat poor countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars by lending them more money than they could possibly repay and then taking over their economies. “It’s very important to read this. The situation is worse than I thought it was,” she said, as she held up the hardcover book with a photo of the author on it for me to see.

Of course, then the 60th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki came up. My eyes began to glaze over. Not because I didn’t care, but because I couldn’t absorb any more of the world’s suffering created by U.S. policies, especially since those in power and so many Americans are fervently invested in continuing with business as usual.

Trying to change the subject to something more current, I said, “Have you been following the protest of Cindy Sheehan outside Bush’s Crawford Texas Ranch? It’s gotten some good coverage. I’m sure some view her as a radical, but I wonder if I could be so brave. And what does she have to lose; she already lost her son in Iraq?”

“Did you write about her on your blog?” My friend asked.

"I started my blog partly to get away from writing about politics," I answered.

“Why?” she pressed.

After explaining the intent and focus of “Loose Leaf” and how I wanted my writing to be less serious and more personal, I continued by giving her my policy on blogging politics, “I don’t do gratuitous politics, but if it comes up in the context of story or a stream of thought, I don’t shy away from it,” I answered. “Besides, I’m tired of preaching to the choir,” I added.

Just a few days before this, while in the Café de Sol to play scrabble, I pulled up “Loose Leaf” at the wireless computer station to show one of my Writers’ Workshop members who rarely touches a computer.

“How many hours a day do you spend on this?” was about all he said.

Later in the day, I thought to myself, "Hey, I didn’t ask him how many hours a day he watches TV, or how many hours a day he’s wasted at a job doing someone else’s work..."

But is does seem that, while blogging gives me a good forum to keep my writing practice sharp, it also can distract me from larger projects. And with so much pain and suffering and corruption in the world, shouldn't I be doing more?

Ah…still explaining what the heck I’ve been doing lately to my friends…and sometimes to myself.

Post Note: For a thought provoking article, which I found via blogcruiser, check out “Writers make good bloggers, but does blogging affect good writing?” written by Tom Dolby and published recently in the San Francisco Chronicle. Also, here are a couple of good links on Cindy Sheehan’s activism as posted on Moveon.org: "One Mother in Crawford" Editorial, The New York Times, August 9,2005. Video Testimonial by Cindy Sheehan from TrueMajority. To read some of my past politcal commentaries you can go to my website.

August 10, 2005

100 Things About Me III

jump.pngHere’s number III in the series. Part I and Part II can be found here.

51. I jump on a big trampoline for exercise.
52. As a girl, I was co-captain of the CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) drill team, The Bellettes. When I got older I joined The Bells. Over the course of my drill team days, I carried a saber, a rifle, and a flag. We wore white boots and helmets with feathers on them. For years when trying on clothes, I would march in front of the mirror to see how the clothes looked on me.
53. I tried out for cheerleading but didn’t make the team.
54. Sometimes I feel like I’m more at home in water. Being in the ocean makes me giddy.
55. Sometimes I use a tarot deck. It’s like taking my psychic blood pressure.
56. I frequently think things are going to be harder than they really are, and my husband thinks they’re going to be easier than they really are.
57. My current bumper sticker says: When Jesus said love your enemy, I think he probably meant don’t kill them.
58. When it comes to sociability, I’m only a few degrees away from being as reclusive as Emily Dickinson. If I go out one day, I have to stay home for the next two days, in order to recover.
59. I once got paid for being a live mannequin in a boutique window in Boston.
60. One of my proudest accomplishments has been growing my own food. I smile a lot in the garden.
61. I don’t do algebra or the metric system.
62. While growing up, we had to go to church, but when we got older and my brother Jimmy could drive, we only pretended to go. We went out for breakfast and then to the beach so that my brothers could “girl watch.” The church we went to, St. Mary’s of the Bay, is now a residence with plastic lawn chairs out front.
63. People sometimes call me up just to hear my answering machine message
64. My favorite answering machine message was one that my dad made. He, who avoids using a phone, simply said (in his best Irish gangster-like voice): “State Your Business.”
65. The first published writing I got paid for was for an article I wrote for Mothering Magazine in the early 1980s.
66. I recently won an honorarium award for my writing contributions to the Wemoon journal over the years.
67. My favorite dream is the one where my boys are little again. They talk in the dream, and their sweet voices make me melt. It’s better than a hot romance dream.
68. I can type looseleafnotes.com as fast as I can type my own name.
69. I once got interviewed on a radio talk show program, after my commentary “Voting Machine Voodoo," which was about how easy it is to steal elections with electronic voting machines, got published.
70. I only buy cars that allow the seats to go down into a bed, in case I’m ever homeless and have to live in my car.
71. I’ve never gotten a scrabble, using all my letters in one turn.
72. I found my first 4 leaf clover at a library book sale in a book for 25 cents.
73. I got my second 4 leaf clover from my brother Danny’s wallet after he died.
74. A flag was erected and a yearly memorial picnic was started in my brother Jimmy’s name at The Blue Hills Observatory in Milton, Massachusetts. Jimmy, who died in 2001, was a weather enthusiast who gave tours at the observatory.
75. My older sister once told me I was adopted. She typed up a paper saying that I was. I didn’t believe her.

100 Things About Me III

jump.pngHere’s number III in the series. Part I and Part II can be found here.

51. I jump on a big trampoline for exercise.
52. As a girl, I was co-captain of the CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) drill team, The Bellettes. When I got older I joined The Bells. Over the course of my drill team days, I carried a saber, a rifle, and a flag. We wore white boots and helmets with feathers on them. For years when trying on clothes, I would march in front of the mirror to see how the clothes looked on me.
53. I tried out for cheerleading but didn’t make the team.
54. Sometimes I feel like I’m more at home in water. Being in the ocean makes me giddy.
55. Sometimes I use a tarot deck. It’s like taking my psychic blood pressure.
56. I frequently think things are going to be harder than they really are, and my husband thinks they’re going to be easier than they really are.
57. My current bumper sticker says: When Jesus said love your enemy, I think he probably meant don’t kill them.
58. When it comes to sociability, I’m only a few degrees away from being as reclusive as Emily Dickinson. If I go out one day, I have to stay home for the next two days, in order to recover.
59. I once got paid for being a live mannequin in a boutique window in Boston.
60. One of my proudest accomplishments has been growing my own food. I smile a lot in the garden.
61. I don’t do algebra or the metric system.
62. While growing up, we had to go to church, but when we got older and my brother Jimmy could drive, we only pretended to go. We went out for breakfast and then to the beach so that my brothers could “girl watch.” The church we went to, St. Mary’s of the Bay, is now a residence with plastic lawn chairs out front.
63. People sometimes call me up just to hear my answering machine message
64. My favorite answering machine message was one that my dad made. He, who avoids using a phone, simply said (in his best Irish gangster-like voice): “State Your Business.”
65. The first published writing I got paid for was for an article I wrote for Mothering Magazine in the early 1980s.
66. I recently won an honorarium award for my writing contributions to the Wemoon journal over the years.
67. My favorite dream is the one where my boys are little again. They talk in the dream, and their sweet voices make me melt. It’s better than a hot romance dream.
68. I can type looseleafnotes.com as fast as I can type my own name.
69. I once got interviewed on a radio talk show program, after my commentary “Voting Machine Voodoo," which was about how easy it is to steal elections with electronic voting machines, got published.
70. I only buy cars that allow the seats to go down into a bed, in case I’m ever homeless and have to live in my car.
71. I’ve never gotten a scrabble, using all my letters in one turn.
72. I found my first 4 leaf clover at a library book sale in a book for 25 cents.
73. I got my second 4 leaf clover from my brother Danny’s wallet after he died.
74. A flag was erected and a yearly memorial picnic was started in my brother Jimmy’s name at The Blue Hills Observatory in Milton, Massachusetts. Jimmy, who died in 2001, was a weather enthusiast who gave tours at the observatory.
75. My older sister once told me I was adopted. She typed up a paper saying that I was. I didn’t believe her.

August 9, 2005

Festivalized!

poetreewomen.pngWelcome in the word… Have you heard? Mara Robbins

Small squares of laminated words from favorite poems hung from the poet tree like holiday ornaments. Under them, and situated between two nearby stages, the poets read whenever there was a break in the music performance line-up during the 3 day world music festival (Floyd Fest). Some read in the fog and drizzle and some in the steamy hot sunshine…One day we’ll all write books…then retire to a tropical island…to live without shoes off our royalties…pick fruit of the trees for breakfast…We’ll buy fresh fish wrapped in newsprint…but won’t read the news on Iraq… (colleen).

Some festival goers came to hear certain scheduled poets, others were drawn in on the spur of the moment by the spell that the cadence of language can spin, and in between readings some of us got up on the soap box and did some foot stomping and romping…that which is in motion stays alive…light of a star…sound of a wave…go on…turn the wheel (alycia).

Others stopped to listen, hearing the call of solidarity, because they recognized the poet as town crier, the bard compelled to voice the truth when the emperor is wearing no clothes... i worry when the state of the union address…holds no promise of union for america…when we are stumbling and grumbling…for the old american dream that… all-white all-male…judicial team that…forces women senators into hot pink…while their male counterparts sleep in slate grey suits. (alli)

The word “festivalized” was frequently heard, shouted out, much like a revolutionized incantation, invoking the poem with the same name that Mara had written and performed, and calling all listeners to action… Raise your choice…Use your lives…Speak your voice… Lest our lives… Lose…Let our muse…Live!!! ... Wake up! …Wake up and play! … You are instrumental! (mara)


Photo: Mara (horizontal), Alysha, Alli: Floyd Fest Spoken Word Staff, all creative writing students at Hollins Women’s College. Colleen is perched in the b(l)ack, hanging with the rest of the Floyd Fest poet tree flock. You can see the poems hanging from the tree in the next photo.

Festivalized!

poetreewomen.pngWelcome in the word… Have you heard? Mara Robbins

Small squares of laminated words from favorite poems hung from the poet tree like holiday ornaments. Under them, and situated between two nearby stages, the poets read whenever there was a break in the music performance line-up during the 3 day world music festival (Floyd Fest). Some read in the fog and drizzle and some in the steamy hot sunshine…One day we’ll all write books…then retire to a tropical island…to live without shoes off our royalties…pick fruit of the trees for breakfast…We’ll buy fresh fish wrapped in newsprint…but won’t read the news on Iraq… (colleen).

Some festival goers came to hear certain scheduled poets, others were drawn in on the spur of the moment by the spell that the cadence of language can spin, and in between readings some of us got up on the soap box and did some foot stomping and romping…that which is in motion stays alive…light of a star…sound of a wave…go on…turn the wheel (alycia).

Others stopped to listen, hearing the call of solidarity, because they recognized the poet as town crier, the bard compelled to voice the truth when the emperor is wearing no clothes... i worry when the state of the union address…holds no promise of union for america…when we are stumbling and grumbling…for the old american dream that… all-white all-male…judicial team that…forces women senators into hot pink…while their male counterparts sleep in slate grey suits. (alli)

The word “festivalized” was frequently heard, shouted out, much like a revolutionized incantation, invoking the poem with the same name that Mara had written and performed, and calling all listeners to action… Raise your choice…Use your lives…Speak your voice… Lest our lives… Lose…Let our muse…Live!!! ... Wake up! …Wake up and play! … You are instrumental! (mara)


Photo: Mara (horizontal), Alysha, Alli: Floyd Fest Spoken Word Staff, all creative writing students at Hollins Women’s College. Colleen is perched in the b(l)ack, hanging with the rest of the Floyd Fest poet tree flock. You can see the poems hanging from the tree in the next photo.

August 8, 2005

Under the Poet Tree

FFreading2.pngAKA: Colleen on the Soap Box ~ It’s always a challenge to choose which poems to read at a spoken word performance. The poems should be varied but flow well together.

My friend Mara began her last reading at the Blacksburg London Underground Pub with an offering of “something borrowed, something blue, something old, and something new.”

I took my lead from her for my recent Floyd Fest reading and read only material with the word blue somewhere in the text. The following poem represented the short and lighter part of the mix and was meant as encouragement to people who meditate but find themselves nodding off and periodically having to lift their heads off their chests.… (Let’s hope those who were listening to the poetry readings, weren’t doing the same).

Blue Lake Meditation

Our heads
like the bows
of rowboats bob
as we drift in and out
of consciousness

On a blue lake of stillness
the mantra is the oar
that guides us from the undertow
of sleep’s dark allure

Under the Poet Tree

FFreading2.pngAKA: Colleen on the Soap Box ~ It’s always a challenge to choose which poems to read at a spoken word performance. The poems should be varied but flow well together.

My friend Mara began her last reading at the Blacksburg London Underground Pub with an offering of “something borrowed, something blue, something old, and something new.”

I took my lead from her for my recent Floyd Fest reading and read only material with the word blue somewhere in the text. The following poem represented the short and lighter part of the mix and was meant as encouragement to people who meditate but find themselves nodding off and periodically having to lift their heads off their chests.… (Let’s hope those who were listening to the poetry readings, weren’t doing the same).

Blue Lake Meditation

Our heads
like the bows
of rowboats bob
as we drift in and out
of consciousness

On a blue lake of stillness
the mantra is the oar
that guides us from the undertow
of sleep’s dark allure

August 7, 2005

A Monk Swimming

After revealing some of the stupidest things I’ve done in my August 1st post, some members of The Love-Link, an email group I belong to, came forward with some of their own “stupid things.” Most were related to mishearing, like this one that my niece, Chrissie, shared:

She and her boyfriend recently went to a Red Sox game. There, the fans begin to cheer for one of their favorite players, Manny Ramirez. “We want Manny…We want Manny,” they roared. But Chrissie and her boyfriend are both from Virginia and not so in "the baseball know.” They thought the crowd was yelling “We want candy.” So they joined in the wild chanting with “We want candy…We want candy!” When someone later questioned her as to why she thought the crowd would be yelling “we want candy” in the first place, she answered that she thought it was some kind of coded lingo for “We want a hit!”

More than one person on the Love Link admitted to thinking “wind chill factor” was actually a “windshield factor,” and when my sister Sherry was a girl she thought a line from a Beatle’s song “we all live in a yellow submarine” was “we all live in a jealous of marine.”

Malachy McCourt, the brother of Angela’s Ashes author, is the author of “A Monk Swims,” the title of which is based on his mishearing of the Catholic prayer, The Hail Mary. As a child, I also misheard a line in that same prayer. If Malachy and I had our way, the Hail Mary would read like this:

Hail Mary full of grapes (grace)
The Lord is we thee
Blessed art thou
A monk swimming (amongst women)…

Have you heard any stupid things wrong lately?

A Monk Swimming

After revealing some of the stupidest things I’ve done in my August 1st post, some members of The Love-Link, an email group I belong to, came forward with some of their own “stupid things.” Most were related to mishearing, like this one that my niece, Chrissie, shared:

She and her boyfriend recently went to a Red Sox game. There, the fans begin to cheer for one of their favorite players, Manny Ramirez. “We want Manny…We want Manny,” they roared. But Chrissie and her boyfriend are both from Virginia and not so in "the baseball know.” They thought the crowd was yelling “We want candy.” So they joined in the wild chanting with “We want candy…We want candy!” When someone later questioned her as to why she thought the crowd would be yelling “we want candy” in the first place, she answered that she thought it was some kind of coded lingo for “We want a hit!”

More than one person on the Love Link admitted to thinking “wind chill factor” was actually a “windshield factor,” and when my sister Sherry was a girl she thought a line from a Beatle’s song “we all live in a yellow submarine” was “we all live in a jealous of marine.”

Malachy McCourt, the brother of Angela’s Ashes author, is the author of “A Monk Swims,” the title of which is based on his mishearing of the Catholic prayer, The Hail Mary. As a child, I also misheard a line in that same prayer. If Malachy and I had our way, the Hail Mary would read like this:

Hail Mary full of grapes (grace)
The Lord is we thee
Blessed art thou
A monk swimming (amongst women)…

Have you heard any stupid things wrong lately?

August 6, 2005

Have Laptop Will Travel

ripplesblog.png I wish all my recent road trip blogging looked this pretty. This is David St. Lawrence of Ripples, blogging at our own wireless Café de Sol, here in Floyd. He’s actually writing about women from Hingham in this shot (see photo and question below).

Have Laptop Will Travel

ripplesblog.png I wish all my recent road trip blogging looked this pretty. This is David St. Lawrence of Ripples, blogging at our own wireless Café de Sol, here in Floyd. He’s actually writing about women from Hingham in this shot (see photo and question below).

Women from Hingham

women from hingham.png When Gretchen St. Lawrence and I first met in June for a blogger met-up, we were excited to discover that we hail from the same place. Although we both live in Virginia now, she is from Hingham, Massachusetts, and I am from Hull, the next town over.

At our second meeting, last week in the Café de Sol, the woman in the background of this photo, (using her lap top and in town for Floyd Fest) over-heard us talking and came forward to say that she is also from Hingham! Not only is she from Hingham, but her name is also Colleen (like mine). What are the chances of a line-up like that?! We couldn’t have planned it if we tried.

Do you have any “small world” stories to share?

Women from Hingham

women from hingham.png When Gretchen St. Lawrence and I first met in June for a blogger met-up, we were excited to discover that we hail from the same place. Although we both live in Virginia now, she is from Hingham, Massachusetts, and I am from Hull, the next town over.

At our second meeting, last week in the Café de Sol, the woman in the background of this photo, (using her lap top and in town for Floyd Fest) over-heard us talking and came forward to say that she is also from Hingham! Not only is she from Hingham, but her name is also Colleen (like mine). What are the chances of a line-up like that?! We couldn’t have planned it if we tried.

Do you have any “small world” stories to share?

August 5, 2005

A Woman Making a Difference

cousins.pngIt has become clear to me that one of the most deep-rooted causes of our problems is the way we treat children and above all babies. I am equally convinced that no program of social and political change that does not include and begin with changes in the ways in which we bear and rear children has any chance of making things better. ~ John Holt, education reform author

Ani DiFranco wasn’t the only righteous woman at the Floyd World Music Festival (Floyd Fest) who inspired me to the point of tears this past weekend (see previous post). My husband, Joe, came back from the early hours of the festival set-up with this story:

Steve Cochran, a friend and advocate of midwifery, told Joe that there would be a Cesarean Prevention booth on the festival site this year. “One of the women running the booth asked me if I knew Colleen Redman,” Steve told Joe. When Steve answered ‘yes,’ the woman replied. “She’s my cousin.”

For quite a few years, I had first cousins, who had also migrated from Massachusetts (and then Connecticut), living in the Smith Mountain Lake area of Virginia, and I didn’t know it. After a while, I “heard tell” they were there, but I wasn’t completely sure until one morning, not so long ago, I got a phone call from one of my cousins inviting me to a family reunion at Smith Mountain Lake.

Tammy, the co-leader of ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) of Southwest Virginia is my cousin Brian’s daughter. I had met her once before briefly and was excited to see her again at Floyd Fest. She wasn’t hard for me to pick out, the one who looked like various aunts and cousins on my father’s Irish/Swedish side of the family.

As I listened to her talk and watched her face morph into those of our various relatives, I got shivers up and down my arms, feeling like we were 2 long lost twins re-united and comparing notes. Not only did we talk about our families, attachment parenting, and the current cesarean rates, we also talked about the possibility of an afterlife and messages we feel that we’ve received from our passed on loved-ones. She doesn’t like driving in cities. She gets shivers easily too. “Oh, one of those big softy-heart Redmans, I see,” I said to myself. Exploring and discussing the deeper aspects of life is also a Redman forte.

As a mother of two sons who were born via c-sections that I believe could have been avoided, cesarean prevention is close to my heart. In fact, 23 years ago, I was helping to launch a cesarean prevention newsletter in Texas similar to the one that Tammy works on today. I wish I could say that the cesarean rate has gone down since I was involved in the cause in 1982. But sadly, according to “Birthing Rite,” the Southwest Virginia ICAN newsletter that Tammy writes for, “The cesarean rate in the U.S. has risen once again to 27.6% in 2003. The cesarean rates in Virginia have also been on the rise. In 2003 the cesarean rate in VA was 28.3% -- much higher than the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) recommended 10-15%!"

A cesarean can be a life saver, but frequently the procedure is done unnecessarily. Having a cesarean can interfere with the mother/infant bonding process, and it increases the risk of complications that come with surgery. Ironically, the mortality rates for mother and child are actually higher with cesareans than they are with vaginal births. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that countries with some of the lowest perinatal mortality rates in the world have cesarean rates under 10%.

The reason that talking to Tammy brought tears to my eyes was because I feel so proud of her, not only because she is a wise woman volunteering her time to help others, but because she is a living testimony to self-empowerment. In 2003 she had a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) after 3 cesarean births!

A Woman Making a Difference

cousins.pngIt has become clear to me that one of the most deep-rooted causes of our problems is the way we treat children and above all babies. I am equally convinced that no program of social and political change that does not include and begin with changes in the ways in which we bear and rear children has any chance of making things better. ~ John Holt, education reform author

Ani DiFranco wasn’t the only righteous woman at the Floyd World Music Festival (Floyd Fest) who inspired me to the point of tears this past weekend (see previous post). My husband, Joe, came back from the early hours of the festival set-up with this story:

Steve Cochran, a friend and advocate of midwifery, told Joe that there would be a Cesarean Prevention booth on the festival site this year. “One of the women running the booth asked me if I knew Colleen Redman,” Steve told Joe. When Steve answered ‘yes,’ the woman replied. “She’s my cousin.”

For quite a few years, I had first cousins, who had also migrated from Massachusetts (and then Connecticut), living in the Smith Mountain Lake area of Virginia, and I didn’t know it. After a while, I “heard tell” they were there, but I wasn’t completely sure until one morning, not so long ago, I got a phone call from one of my cousins inviting me to a family reunion at Smith Mountain Lake.

Tammy, the co-leader of ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) of Southwest Virginia is my cousin Brian’s daughter. I had met her once before briefly and was excited to see her again at Floyd Fest. She wasn’t hard for me to pick out, the one who looked like various aunts and cousins on my father’s Irish/Swedish side of the family.

As I listened to her talk and watched her face morph into those of our various relatives, I got shivers up and down my arms, feeling like we were 2 long lost twins re-united and comparing notes. Not only did we talk about our families, attachment parenting, and the current cesarean rates, we also talked about the possibility of an afterlife and messages we feel that we’ve received from our passed on loved-ones. She doesn’t like driving in cities. She gets shivers easily too. “Oh, one of those big softy-heart Redmans, I see,” I said to myself. Exploring and discussing the deeper aspects of life is also a Redman forte.

As a mother of two sons who were born via c-sections that I believe could have been avoided, cesarean prevention is close to my heart. In fact, 23 years ago, I was helping to launch a cesarean prevention newsletter in Texas similar to the one that Tammy works on today. I wish I could say that the cesarean rate has gone down since I was involved in the cause in 1982. But sadly, according to “Birthing Rite,” the Southwest Virginia ICAN newsletter that Tammy writes for, “The cesarean rate in the U.S. has risen once again to 27.6% in 2003. The cesarean rates in Virginia have also been on the rise. In 2003 the cesarean rate in VA was 28.3% -- much higher than the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) recommended 10-15%!"

A cesarean can be a life saver, but frequently the procedure is done unnecessarily. Having a cesarean can interfere with the mother/infant bonding process, and it increases the risk of complications that come with surgery. Ironically, the mortality rates for mother and child are actually higher with cesareans than they are with vaginal births. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that countries with some of the lowest perinatal mortality rates in the world have cesarean rates under 10%.

The reason that talking to Tammy brought tears to my eyes was because I feel so proud of her, not only because she is a wise woman volunteering her time to help others, but because she is a living testimony to self-empowerment. In 2003 she had a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) after 3 cesarean births!

August 4, 2005

Ani in the Rain

FF mainstage.pngRighteous – Meeting the standards of what is right and just; morally right. ~ The American Heritage Dictionary

I wore an assortment of hats, caps, and visors throughout the 4th annual Floyd Fest weekend to keep from being sunburned and from getting WET. We seemed to get all variety of weather over the 3 day world music weekend. The Blue Ridge Parkway, where the festival is held, is notorious for fog, and so, there’s good reason that Floyd Fest is sometimes affectionately called “Fog Fest.”

Emerging from her tour bus and onto the timber-framed stage at 6 p.m. Sunday evening, Ani DiFranco closed the show with what was said to be her last performance before taking a year off. I heard that she has tendonitis, and with the way she drives her guitar, I’m not surprised.

I saw Ani play in Greensboro, N.C., nearly 10 years ago. I liked and respected her as a poet, musician, and activist then, but I had forgotten just how much she inspires me. At one point, during her song that starts…. Our Father, who art in the penthouse… and ends with… and whoever’s in charge up there, had better take the elevator down, and put more than change in our cup…or else we…are coming…up, I gasped and turned to my husband, saying, “she’s killing me.” It was a verbal attempt to communicate how sweetly deep her words were getting into me.

She played for an hour before saying to the crowd, “Oh shit, here we go, huh?” in reference to the rain that was soon to downpour, eliciting this from Ani, “What have we here? Whoooo!” And after describing the crowd as a light sculpture of changing colors that she was enjoying, she said, with a playful laugh, “And now you’re fixin to get wet… which would be very sexy.”

Yes, the rain seemed to make the crowd of fans (the ones who stayed, which were most of us) only more wildly free-spirited than they already were…dancing barefoot in the mud, singing along with all the words, raising arms up in solidarity, sharing umbrellas, and smiling knowingly at each other.

Ani tells it like it is. She’s petite but her stage presence is big and I haven’t been so impressed with songwriting/poetry since the early days of Joni Mitchell. “Joni Mitchell revolutionized,” I turned to my husband and said, while she was changing guitars.

Ani’s life work is sharing her talent, not only to entertain but to raise consciousness. The political, environmental, and unrepressed love themes in Ani’s songs are not only right on, they are also reminiscent of women who came before her, those who put themselves on the line during the suffragette movement of the late 1800s in order to promote women’s rights.

Her independent record label isn’t called “Righteous Babe” for nothing.

For a good overall description of the Floyd Fest scene, visit “A tech monk speaks,” and Blue Ridge Muse has some excellent photos of the event.

Ani in the Rain

FF mainstage.pngRighteous – Meeting the standards of what is right and just; morally right. ~ The American Heritage Dictionary

I wore an assortment of hats, caps, and visors throughout the 4th annual Floyd Fest weekend to keep from being sunburned and from getting WET. We seemed to get all variety of weather over the 3 day world music weekend. The Blue Ridge Parkway, where the festival is held, is notorious for fog, and so, there’s good reason that Floyd Fest is sometimes affectionately called “Fog Fest.”

Emerging from her tour bus and onto the timber-framed stage at 6 p.m. Sunday evening, Ani DiFranco closed the show with what was said to be her last performance before taking a year off. I heard that she has tendonitis, and with the way she drives her guitar, I’m not surprised.

I saw Ani play in Greensboro, N.C., nearly 10 years ago. I liked and respected her as a poet, musician, and activist then, but I had forgotten just how much she inspires me. At one point, during her song that starts…. Our Father, who art in the penthouse… and ends with… and whoever’s in charge up there, had better take the elevator down, and put more than change in our cup…or else we…are coming…up, I gasped and turned to my husband, saying, “she’s killing me.” It was a verbal attempt to communicate how sweetly deep her words were getting into me.

She played for an hour before saying to the crowd, “Oh shit, here we go, huh?” in reference to the rain that was soon to downpour, eliciting this from Ani, “What have we here? Whoooo!” And after describing the crowd as a light sculpture of changing colors that she was enjoying, she said, with a playful laugh, “And now you’re fixin to get wet… which would be very sexy.”

Yes, the rain seemed to make the crowd of fans (the ones who stayed, which were most of us) only more wildly free-spirited than they already were…dancing barefoot in the mud, singing along with all the words, raising arms up in solidarity, sharing umbrellas, and smiling knowingly at each other.

Ani tells it like it is. She’s petite but her stage presence is big and I haven’t been so impressed with songwriting/poetry since the early days of Joni Mitchell. “Joni Mitchell revolutionized,” I turned to my husband and said, while she was changing guitars.

Ani’s life work is sharing her talent, not only to entertain but to raise consciousness. The political, environmental, and unrepressed love themes in Ani’s songs are not only right on, they are also reminiscent of women who came before her, those who put themselves on the line during the suffragette movement of the late 1800s in order to promote women’s rights.

Her independent record label isn’t called “Righteous Babe” for nothing.

For a good overall description of the Floyd Fest scene, visit “A tech monk speaks,” and Blue Ridge Muse has some excellent photos of the event.

August 3, 2005

Bloggers at Floyd Fest

FFblogging.png My fantasy is that at some point during the recent Floyd World Music Festival (Floyd Fest), I would have finagled myself up on stage, grabbed a microphone and shouted to the crowd, “How many bloggers are out there? Let’s see a show of hands!” After all, didn’t my friend, Steve P, get up on the stage a couple of years ago and brag about his first grandson? And last year Bob the “Foreman” earned the privilege, via his building skills, to be slotted in the performers program to lead us in a Beatle’s song.

In the past two of months, I’ve had a couple of “what I’ve been calling blogger blind dates,” where I meet up with fellow bloggers that I’ve been communicating with online. At Floyd Fest, I had the pleasure to meet Jeanne from “Out and Back,” who was in town for Floyd Fest and to visit her brother, also a blogger (A Tech Monk Speaks).

This was the first year there was an internet café at the festival, graciously hosted by Blue Nova, a Floyd computing company. I wonder how many bloggers besides me were under the Blue Nova tent checking their blog traffic over the 3 day festival weekend. If I could have gotten that show of hands, we all could have met there and had a real blogger cross pollination meet-up. As it were, I was able to visit Michele Agnew for her traditional blogger weekend “meet and greet” (see photo). Something I was hardly expecting to do.

I was thrilled to run into a couple of festival goers who admitted to being regular “Loose Leaf” readers (ones that I wasn’t aware of), I sold some of my books, enjoyed the attentive audience under the poetree during my reading…and…Ani DiFranco’s poetry was so good that at one point it made me cry. Wow. Ain’t life great?!

Bloggers at Floyd Fest

FFblogging.png My fantasy is that at some point during the recent Floyd World Music Festival (Floyd Fest), I would have finagled myself up on stage, grabbed a microphone and shouted to the crowd, “How many bloggers are out there? Let’s see a show of hands!” After all, didn’t my friend, Steve P, get up on the stage a couple of years ago and brag about his first grandson? And last year Bob the “Foreman” earned the privilege, via his building skills, to be slotted in the performers program to lead us in a Beatle’s song.

In the past two of months, I’ve had a couple of “what I’ve been calling blogger blind dates,” where I meet up with fellow bloggers that I’ve been communicating with online. At Floyd Fest, I had the pleasure to meet Jeanne from “Out and Back,” who was in town for Floyd Fest and to visit her brother, also a blogger (A Tech Monk Speaks).

This was the first year there was an internet café at the festival, graciously hosted by Blue Nova, a Floyd computing company. I wonder how many bloggers besides me were under the Blue Nova tent checking their blog traffic over the 3 day festival weekend. If I could have gotten that show of hands, we all could have met there and had a real blogger cross pollination meet-up. As it were, I was able to visit Michele Agnew for her traditional blogger weekend “meet and greet” (see photo). Something I was hardly expecting to do.

I was thrilled to run into a couple of festival goers who admitted to being regular “Loose Leaf” readers (ones that I wasn’t aware of), I sold some of my books, enjoyed the attentive audience under the poetree during my reading…and…Ani DiFranco’s poetry was so good that at one point it made me cry. Wow. Ain’t life great?!

August 2, 2005

The Rural Fast Lane: Take 2

When “Life in the Rural Fast Lane” was originally posted at “Loose Leaf” on April 5, a reader humorously asked where the accompanying photo was (in reference to the line where I say that because I have no visible neighbors, I can garden topless if I want to). More recently, the essay appeared in the program for the Floyd World Music Festival, commonly known as Floyd Fest. The graphic artist's rendering that went with the piece also zeroed in on that line, causing me to be affectionately nicknamed “the naked gardening lady” by some at the festival. I also got a “thanks for the plug” thumbs-up comment from my egg man, Ed Gralla.

Life in the Rural Fast Lane

I live in a one stoplight town. I get my honey from the woman who works the front desk at the Community Action Center and my farm fresh eggs from the Gralla-Shwartz family. Some of the egg shells are actually light green and the cartons have feathers and pieces of hay in them. I also grow a lot of my own food and my husband stocks the freezer with wild venison. Last year my potato crop was so prolific that I was still eating them in May. All the stores here take my checks without asking for identification and some will cash personal checks made out to me. It cost $5 to fix a flat tire (up from $3 just a few years back) and a haircut at the local barbershop is $7. Because I have no visible neighbors, I can weed my garden topless or sunbathe naked on a lounge chair – one of my top criteria for Paradise. My water is from a well. It’s pure and tastes good. I can’t hear any traffic.

If you’re thinking I’m out in the sticks, here’s the flip side of that:

I’m 6 miles from downtown, but because there’s no traffic or speed limits on back roads, it only takes me 8 minutes to get there. I can sometimes ride to town without seeing another car, but if I do see one, it’s customary to wave even if you don’t know who it is. Once I’m in town, my anonymity is over. Everyone says hello or stops to talk. After a few hugs and conversations, I can get a meal with capers in it, or start a pick-up game of scrabble at the local café. I can visit any number of art studios, shop for clothes that I actually like, buy organic produce, or antiques. I love to dance so I’m thrilled that we have a monthly Contra Dance, an active Dance Free, and of course there’s always Friday night flat footing at the Country Store Jamboree, competing with Irish night at the local Cantina. I attend a weekly meditation satsang and a bi-monthly writers’ workshop. My husband goes to yoga and martial arts classes. This summer will mark the 4th anniversary the World Music Festival (Floyd Fest), held just a few miles up the road from my house. A few months ago the Leon Russell Band played here. Before that it was Maria Muldaur.

When I first moved to Floyd in 1985, friends and family worried that I might be isolated in the country. My answer to them is where the term “life in the rural fast lane” first came from. In truth, sometimes Floyd living is so overwhelming that I stay home for days on end, schlepping around in my sweatpants, not wearing shoes or brushing my hair, talking to the dog on the walk to the mailbox. More criteria for Paradise, as far as I’m concerned.

The Rural Fast Lane: Take 2

When “Life in the Rural Fast Lane” was originally posted at “Loose Leaf” on April 5, a reader humorously asked where the accompanying photo was (in reference to the line where I say that because I have no visible neighbors, I can garden topless if I want to). More recently, the essay appeared in the program for the Floyd World Music Festival, commonly known as Floyd Fest. The graphic artist's rendering that went with the piece also zeroed in on that line, causing me to be affectionately nicknamed “the naked gardening lady” by some at the festival. I also got a “thanks for the plug” thumbs-up comment from my egg man, Ed Gralla.

Life in the Rural Fast Lane

I live in a one stoplight town. I get my honey from the woman who works the front desk at the Community Action Center and my farm fresh eggs from the Gralla-Shwartz family. Some of the egg shells are actually light green and the cartons have feathers and pieces of hay in them. I also grow a lot of my own food and my husband stocks the freezer with wild venison. Last year my potato crop was so prolific that I was still eating them in May. All the stores here take my checks without asking for identification and some will cash personal checks made out to me. It cost $5 to fix a flat tire (up from $3 just a few years back) and a haircut at the local barbershop is $7. Because I have no visible neighbors, I can weed my garden topless or sunbathe naked on a lounge chair – one of my top criteria for Paradise. My water is from a well. It’s pure and tastes good. I can’t hear any traffic.

If you’re thinking I’m out in the sticks, here’s the flip side of that:

I’m 6 miles from downtown, but because there’s no traffic or speed limits on back roads, it only takes me 8 minutes to get there. I can sometimes ride to town without seeing another car, but if I do see one, it’s customary to wave even if you don’t know who it is. Once I’m in town, my anonymity is over. Everyone says hello or stops to talk. After a few hugs and conversations, I can get a meal with capers in it, or start a pick-up game of scrabble at the local café. I can visit any number of art studios, shop for clothes that I actually like, buy organic produce, or antiques. I love to dance so I’m thrilled that we have a monthly Contra Dance, an active Dance Free, and of course there’s always Friday night flat footing at the Country Store Jamboree, competing with Irish night at the local Cantina. I attend a weekly meditation satsang and a bi-monthly writers’ workshop. My husband goes to yoga and martial arts classes. This summer will mark the 4th anniversary the World Music Festival (Floyd Fest), held just a few miles up the road from my house. A few months ago the Leon Russell Band played here. Before that it was Maria Muldaur.

When I first moved to Floyd in 1985, friends and family worried that I might be isolated in the country. My answer to them is where the term “life in the rural fast lane” first came from. In truth, sometimes Floyd living is so overwhelming that I stay home for days on end, schlepping around in my sweatpants, not wearing shoes or brushing my hair, talking to the dog on the walk to the mailbox. More criteria for Paradise, as far as I’m concerned.

August 1, 2005

The Stupidest Thing

This meme was sent to me nearly a month ago by Musings of a Middle-aged Woman. I was in Massachusetts at the time on a solo sabbatical, being kept busy trying not to do anything really stupid so I could make it home in one piece. Sorry it’s taken so long to answer…

1. What are the three stupidest things you’ve ever done in your life? A few years ago my sister Kathy, my mother, and I went to Nova Scotia to visit my mother’s elderly aunt, whom she had never met. We took “The Cat,” a large car ferry with sleeping bunks and a casino in it, from Yarmouth, Maine, to Halifax. After driving our car onto the ferry, we found ourselves standing in a small ship’s closet for nearly 5 minutes thinking it was an elevator. We looked so convincing that a couple joined us, before a ship’s mate came to the rescue and redirected us.

I’ve done a lot of stupid things related to computers. The most recent was at my brother-in-law’s house when I was trying to use my USB (universal serial bus) plug and his computer wouldn’t open it. After trying several times, finally, a box came up, asking, “Do you want to re-format?” I hit, yes, happy that it was finally doing something, and it promptly erased all my worked and fried the gadget altogether.

I once went on a solo writing retreat without a Dictionary or a Thesaurus, which is a little like going shopping without any form of currency to buy something with.

2. At the current moment, who has the most influence on your life? Hal, my computer.

3. If you were given a time machine that functioned, and you were allowed to pick up to five people to dine with, who would you pick? Annie Oakley, Einstein, Rumi, Babe Ruth, and Cleopatra…just to see how they would all interact.

4. If you had three wishes that were not supernatural, what would they be?
Is (in the words of Elvis Costello) peace, love, and understanding supernatural? I hope not. I hope I live to see members of the current Bush administration be held accountable for some of their regrettable actions. I hope clean air and water hasn’t become supernatural either.

5. Someone is visiting your hometown/place where you live at the moment. Name two things you regret not having in your city, and two things people should avoid. We have fresh fish and an internet café (pretty good for a small rural town), but we don’t have any mass transit here. I would tell visitors to avoid hitting a deer while driving, getting lost on the back roads, or getting up close and personal with a bear.

6. Name one event that changed your life? Being with my brother Danny when he took his last breath.

7. Want to play? This is the part where you pass it on. I’m tagging the following: Out and Back, The Nearest Distant Shore, Chronicles from Hurricane Country, Millersville,and One Day at a Time.
~ Now feel free to add something stupid that you've done.

The Stupidest Thing

This meme was sent to me nearly a month ago by Musings of a Middle-aged Woman. I was in Massachusetts at the time on a solo sabbatical, being kept busy trying not to do anything really stupid so I could make it home in one piece. Sorry it’s taken so long to answer…

1. What are the three stupidest things you’ve ever done in your life? A few years ago my sister Kathy, my mother, and I went to Nova Scotia to visit my mother’s elderly aunt, whom she had never met. We took “The Cat,” a large car ferry with sleeping bunks and a casino in it, from Yarmouth, Maine, to Halifax. After driving our car onto the ferry, we found ourselves standing in a small ship’s closet for nearly 5 minutes thinking it was an elevator. We looked so convincing that a couple joined us, before a ship’s mate came to the rescue and redirected us.

I’ve done a lot of stupid things related to computers. The most recent was at my brother-in-law’s house when I was trying to use my USB (universal serial bus) plug and his computer wouldn’t open it. After trying several times, finally, a box came up, asking, “Do you want to re-format?” I hit, yes, happy that it was finally doing something, and it promptly erased all my worked and fried the gadget altogether.

I once went on a solo writing retreat without a Dictionary or a Thesaurus, which is a little like going shopping without any form of currency to buy something with.

2. At the current moment, who has the most influence on your life? Hal, my computer.

3. If you were given a time machine that functioned, and you were allowed to pick up to five people to dine with, who would you pick? Annie Oakley, Einstein, Rumi, Babe Ruth, and Cleopatra…just to see how they would all interact.

4. If you had three wishes that were not supernatural, what would they be?
Is (in the words of Elvis Costello) peace, love, and understanding supernatural? I hope not. I hope I live to see members of the current Bush administration be held accountable for some of their regrettable actions. I hope clean air and water hasn’t become supernatural either.

5. Someone is visiting your hometown/place where you live at the moment. Name two things you regret not having in your city, and two things people should avoid. We have fresh fish and an internet café (pretty good for a small rural town), but we don’t have any mass transit here. I would tell visitors to avoid hitting a deer while driving, getting lost on the back roads, or getting up close and personal with a bear.

6. Name one event that changed your life? Being with my brother Danny when he took his last breath.

7. Want to play? This is the part where you pass it on. I’m tagging the following: Out and Back, The Nearest Distant Shore, Chronicles from Hurricane Country, Millersville,and One Day at a Time.
~ Now feel free to add something stupid that you've done.